Pharyngula

We had a fun evening on Friday—a crowd of a few hundred people sat down to consider the problem of a morality at the University of Chicago. At the front of the room we had Bob Bossie (a very liberal Catholic), Sunsara Taylor (a very articulate Communist) and me to make a few opening remarks and open the floodgates of questions from the audience. It was interesting and thoughtful, and nothing at all like this incredible session on Fox News.

Let me emphasize that Bob was not that crazy priest in the video, declaring that godlessness meant the death of hope and the decline of your money making ability, that socialism and secularism were a failure, and capitalism was the only economic philosophy that could possibly lead to morality. That is, Bob was not freaking insane. He does believe in God, but his God seems to be a superfluous entity bobbing on top of a core of very humanist values, and when he talked about what he really cared about, it was communities of people.

Taylor’s position was very similar in a lot of ways — that we need to change the world through liberation of the oppressed, and the way to do that was through revolutionary Communism. In her case, though, the philosophical justification wasn’t at all superfluous — Communism was the best strategy for bringing about change. We had a little set of questions we’d worked out before the event, and she had the advantage of us all in providing the most coherent answers to them…I just don’t think she’s entirely right. I don’t like the idea of a revolution led by a vanguard, I’m more of an evolution driven by the education and inspiration of the masses kind of guy.

Here are the answers to our guiding questions that I gave (sort of) in my opening remarks.

1. Can science provide a morality to change the world?

NO.

Science merely describes what is, not what should be, and it also takes a rather universal view: science as science takes no sides on matters relevant to a particular species, and would not say that an ape is more important than a mouse is more important than a rock. Don’t ask science to tell you what to do when making some fine-grained moral decision, because that is not what science is good at.

What science is, is a policeman of the truth. What it’s very good at is telling you when a moral decision is being made badly, in opposition to the facts. If you try to claim that homosexuality is wrong because it is unnatural, science can provide you a long list of animals that practice homosexuality freely, naturally, and with no ill consequences. If you try to claim that abortion is bad because it has horrible physiological consequences to pregnant women, science will provide you with the evidence that it does no such thing, and also that childbirth is far more physiologically debilitating.

If you want to claim that homosexuals should be stoned to death because the Bible says so, science will tell you yep, that’s what it says, and further, we’ll point out that the Abrahamic religions seem to be part of a culturally successful and relatively stable matrix. “Science”, if we’re imagining it as some institutional entity in the world, really doesn’t care — there is no grand objective morality, no goal or purpose to life other than survival over multiple generations, and it could dispassionately conclude that many cultures with moral rules that we might personally consider abhorrent can be viable.

However, I would suggest that science would also concede that we as a species ought to support a particular moral philosophy, not because it is objectively superior, but because it is subjectively the proper emphasis of humanity…and that philosophy is humanism. In the same way, of course, we’d also suggest that cephalopods would ideally follow the precepts of cephalopodism.

So don’t look to science for a moral philosophy: look to humanism. Humanism says that we should strive to maximize the long-term welfare and happiness of humans; that we should look to ourselves, not to imaginary beings in the sky or to the imperatives written down in old books, to aspire to something better, something more coherent and successful at promoting our existence on the planet.

Science wouldn’t disagree. But it would be a kind of passive agreement that says, sure, nothing in that idea is in violation of reality, go for it. It would also be egging the cephalopods on, though.

2. Are science, religion, and communism complementary, conflictual or mutually exclusive of one another?

Science and religion are definitely in conflict. Again, science is only acting as a policeman, though: it’s firing up the sirens and flashing lights to pull over the priests and tell them that claiming authority on the basis of an imaginary man in the sky is fallacious and discredits your entire paradigm. Rethink the basis of your beliefs, and maybe we can get along.

I think science and communism are also in conflict, but perhaps less dramatically so. There, we have to point out an empirical problem, that communist societies haven’t fared so well. The concession I would have to make is that communism is a young philosophy, unlike religion, so it can be excused to some degree for being at the start of the learning curve. I find it a little hard to excuse some of the human costs of communism, but then science also has had human costs.

But science isn’t a moral philosophy. I’ve proposed humanism as our tool; are communism and religion in conflict with that? And that’s where the answer gets murkier, because more progressive versions of those philosophies all seem to converge on humanism, anyway. The quest for social justice is a humanist ideal, and it’s also front and center in communism and liberal religion; you can be either of those and also be a humanist. I wouldn’t exactly call them complementary, but I would call them compatible.

3. How will we motivate people, and with what moral paradigm to change the world?

As I’ve said repeatedly, science doesn’t provide a morality. What it does provide, and what I optimistically and subjectively think will motivate people, is that it provides rigor and a path to the truth of the world. I know, I could be cynical and suggest that what people really want is delusions, distractions, and reassurances to help them hide away from reality — but what I’ve noticed is that people who accept reality seem to be better able to deal with it, and are often happier and more content. And further, they are better prepared to change the actual world, rather than burying themselves deeper in their fantasies.

All three of us disagreed on many things…but trust me, this wasn’t Fox News. It wasn’t a coterie of flaming idiots, for one thing.

Comments

  1. #1 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    April 17, 2010

    I’m not sure I dare click that, so I’ll just try to use the still image to guess how many kids the guy with the dogcollar has diddled.

    Amazing to hear you weren’t all carted away by the cops. What went wrong?

  2. #2 TWood
    April 17, 2010

    PZ – Have you seen this argument?

    Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

  3. #3 Zeno
    April 17, 2010

    I wouldn’t exactly call them complimentary, but I would call them compatible.

    complementary

    /nitpick

    But then, I’m a prescriptivist who tries to keep English in a straightjacket.

    straitjacket

    /self-reference

  4. #4 Androly-San
    April 17, 2010

    I’ve seen a couple of segments with that lunatic priest in them and he looks even crazier each time.
    I was gonna label Fox news with a derogatory adjective, but there really isn’t one strong enough.

  5. #5 molto legato e sostenuto
    April 17, 2010

    That sounds like a memorable evening. I wish I could have been there.

    This priest fellow sounds like one of those people who I’d really want on our side, and then I think, well, maybe in many ways he *is* on our side. The god thing is just a way he dresses up his philosophy. While I’m not saying anything new, I do wish such people would realize that by dressing up their vague metaphor and calling it “god”, they’re giving shelter to millions of believe whose belief in god is actually some sort of interventionist being, and most belief systems involving such an entity are pretty nasty and have negative consequences for humanity. Not that I think the metaphor really ought to be necessary anyway. Humanism, as you say, does a much better job.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    April 17, 2010

    Yes, and I’m following Sam Harris’s ideas with some interest. He hasn’t entirely convinced me — I think science can only be a guide to morality if you bring in an external reference, such as “we should reduce human misery”. Then it can help you work towards that goal. But I see science as far more neutral, and, for instance, having nothing to say about whether human misery is at all bad.

    I think Harris is working on a book on this subject. I’m reserving judgment until I see a fuller treatment. Maybe he’ll convince me.

    But man, going up against Hume? Balls of steel, or crazy, or both.

  7. #7 Newfie
    April 17, 2010

    It was a very interesting talk. Great meeting you and Hemant, PZ.

  8. #8 Ben Goren
    April 17, 2010

    For me, morality is nothing more (nor less) than what in game theory is described as an optimal strategy. Sure, you might perhaps maybe be able to get some marginal short-term gain from stealing, raping, and murdering…maybe. But not only is the risk:reward ratio awfully skewed against such actions in our current society, in any society it’s pretty clearly a losing proposition in the long term, especially for the society as a whole.

    That our brains are wired to do this sort of math automatically is in no way surprising. I’m no more surprised that we and other primates both have an innate sense of the injustice of theft than I am that we’re also all capable of performing the necessary calculations to jump from one branch to another.

    Anyway, try these on for size for a practical expansion that, to me, appears to cover pretty much all generalities.

    I. Do not do unto others as they do not wish to be done unto.

    (The First Rule may be broken only to the minimum
    degree necessary to otherwise preserve it.)

    II. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to
    them likewise.

    III. An it harm none, do what thou will.

    The rules must be applied in that order. For example, following
    the second rule is not permissible in circumstances which require
    violating the first rule (except as provided for by the Exception).

    Cheers,


    EAC Memographer
    BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
    “All but God can prove this sentence true.”

  9. #9 Holytape
    April 17, 2010

    At what point is someone going to buy fox news a dictionary? Paganism is not the same thing as secularism. For fucks sake. Communism is not the same thing as fascism. I think Fox news people see the ending “-ism” and then assume it must mean the same thing as every other word that ends in “-ism.”

    The belief in God leads to the belief in the dignity of work? That just doesn’t even make any sense. Jesus did not have a job. It took Noah a hundred years to build a single boat. And I have had a lot of crap jobs, where the word ‘dignity’ was not in the job description. I believe I was living in a capitalistic society, and hell even at the time, I still barely believed in a God. But who knows, I was in a blue state when I was working those crap jobs, so maybe I was in a pagan-loser society, which secretly stole the dignity from the $5.25 an hour I was making.

    The true story of Jesus birth

  10. #10 CompulsoryAccount7746
    April 17, 2010

    I thought Sam Harris’ TSN Lecture was better than the TED one. Lots of Q&A.

    http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-enlightenment-2-0/sam-harris

  11. #11 dreamfish.org.uk
    April 17, 2010

    For me, the scientific aspect of morality is the scientific approach, which is essentially the same as the rational approach of argument, evidence, hypothesis, analysis, observation, testing and continuous refinement/improvement.

    If you take rape as an example, the religious argument is that you don’t rape because magic man in the sky said not to and this is stated in his book of rules. In other words, it’s an arbitrary assertion from an arbitrary authority that has arbitrarily been declared perfect.

    My rational take on rape is that is harms the other individual, takes away dignity and damages society – each of those can be explored and explained rationally and I have no hesitation in believing it to be a superior approach to morality than that put forward by religion, which is based more on expediency that on what is right.

  12. #12 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    PZ: But I see science as far more neutral, and, for instance, having nothing to say about whether human misery is at all bad.

    Science can try and identify the unifying principles for what humans mean when they use the word “ought”. Science cannot answer whether anyone OUGHT to use such a unified principle as a bridge across the is-ought divide – one mistake Harris seems to make.

    Harris also neglects to consider whether the principle is an exact one or merely an approximation, and whether it is an ultimate principle or a particular expression of a more general case.

    PZ: But man, going up against Hume? Balls of steel, or crazy, or both.

    A little of both, I’d expect. Most humans are a little crazy.

    On the other hand, “Nothing must be held sacred!”

    Hume didn’t have any solution to the problem of induction, either; but mathematics has turned up one recently, even though it has limits to the usefulness.

  13. #13 Kristian
    April 17, 2010

    Correct me if I am wrong. But isn’t the economic problems in Europe a result of the economic problems the USA is in.

  14. #14 Q.E.D
    April 17, 2010

    I clicked the video. Now I know how the people who saw the video in The Ring felt like.

    I am gobsmacked by the extent to which Faux News has entirely jetissoned facts in favour of ideology.

    It’s almost gnostic: this reality is all wrong. There is a better, real, reality that the chosen people know to be true. In our reality the US has a white president, everyone is christian, white, middle class and conservative.

    The unnamed Bush White House source said as much:

    We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality?judiciously, as you will?we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors?and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do/blockquote>

    ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality-based_community

  15. #15 alysonmiers
    April 17, 2010

    What science is, is a policeman of the truth. What it’s very good at is telling you when a moral decision is being made badly, in opposition to the facts. If you try to claim that homosexuality is wrong because it is unnatural, science can provide you a long list of animals that practice homosexuality freely, naturally, and with no ill consequences.

    I like this. The way I see it is, you pose a moral question, good/bad or right/wrong, and science can’t answer that. However, you can break that moral question down into smaller, simpler questions, which science can answer. Then you can use the scientific answers as a guide in figuring out the moral question.

  16. #16 blf
    April 17, 2010

    I think Fox news people see the ending “-ism” and then assume it must mean the same thing as every other word that ends in “-ism.”

    No, too complicated. It’s more like ?I didn’t profit from this so it is wrong and worthless? (where profit exclusively means more money).

  17. #17 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    dreamfish.org.uk: For me, the scientific aspect of morality is the scientific approach, which is essentially the same as the rational approach of argument, evidence, hypothesis, analysis, observation, testing and continuous refinement/improvement.

    Technically, however, since it involves the making of choices, it’s not purely science, but engineering.

  18. #18 dreamfish.org.uk
    April 17, 2010

    I am gobsmacked by the extent to which Faux News has entirely jetissoned facts in favour of ideology.

    Oh come on, let’s not be so naive here – this this Fox News we’re talking about. The channel that does completely the opposite of ‘fair and balanced’ news and actually gets away with it!

    I know a lot of rational atheists feel it’s necessary to engage with Fox in some spirit of ‘know thy enemy’ but don’t think you’ll ever change their mind (or their agenda). Spouting biased, extreme right-wing BS is what they’ve always done and there’s no reason to believe they’ll ever change.

  19. #19 gould1865
    April 17, 2010

    Hume is readable, these guys are not, whoever they are, the people you call “mathematics.”

    Their prose is an insult to clear thinking and writing. And what about yours? you are willing to say an abstract math “turned up” something, not some individuals? And you are willing to speak of an “ultimate principle” as if it really exists as well known? I know nothing of this “ultimate principle” or “necessity” because it does not exist.

  20. #20 blf
    April 17, 2010

    What science is, is a policeman of the truth. What it’s very good at is telling you when a moral decision is being made badly, in opposition to the facts. If you try to claim that homosexuality is wrong because it is unnatural, science can provide you a long list of animals that practice homosexuality freely, naturally, and with no ill consequences.

    I’ll quibble a little bit with the word policeman because of authoritarian overtones or an appeal to authority. Something like park ranger might be better: Science is an experienced guide towards truth…

    I quibble, I know, but it bugged me when I first read it, and it still bugs me after several rereadings.

  21. #21 TWood
    April 17, 2010

    My understanding of Harris so far – He uses a measurement he’s calling ‘wellbeing’. He argues that if something can be measured then science can analyze it. He acknowledges that the measurement is not useful on finer questions, but that it can be applied to broader issues like social systems. And even then it’s better at defining a range rather than a specific point along a scale.

    My cartoon take on it:

    moral relativism

  22. #22 cfmilner
    April 17, 2010

    *splutter* I know this is at a tangent to the point you’re trying to make but as a Brit I need to rant about this before I explode.

    .. secularism might have something to do with Europe’s economic problems …

    What about the liquidity crisis in America?
    The sub-prime mortgage issues?
    The collapse of the Lehmen Brothers and other institutions?

    I don’t suppose they had anything to do with Europe’s economic issues!

    Sheesh!! I now understand why it’s called Faux News.

  23. #23 mmelliott01
    April 17, 2010

    /self-reference

    Oh dear. It appears that Zeno is asymptotically approaching a solipsistic singularity.

  24. #24 kilternkafuffle
    April 17, 2010

    I cannot stand that priest. The intonation preachers use – from Boteach to D’Souza to this guy – is impossible to listen to. It’s like having rotating drills inserted into my ears.

    The bench-pressing guy leaks some sense into the debate – he’s the only guy in that room whose mind isn’t in an impenetrable bubble.

  25. #25 Roestigraben
    April 17, 2010

    No wonder a thoroughly pagan nation like China doesn’t get anything done. Losers.

  26. #26 irenedelse
    April 17, 2010

    Holytape #9:

    Jesus did not have a job.

    Actually, most Biblical scholars today think that the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels was a rabbi, a teacher of scriptural wisdom and interpreter of Israelite law. He learned from other masters, including probably John the Baptizer. (The Pharisians that the Gospels so thoroughtly revile were other such teachers and experts in Jewish scripture, but they interpreted it very differently, hence the fierce debates between the early Christians and them.)

  27. #27 Samia
    April 17, 2010

    Palmer Joss actually exists! And I who faithlessly thought all the Contact characters were obvious caricatures… This one’s in the real world! Unbelievable!

  28. #28 molto legato e sostenuto
    April 17, 2010

    My take on Sam Harris is that he’s sneaking in a definition of, – or, perhaps more properly, a purpose for – morality before establishing that we all agree on what morality is. He uses language like “strategy for promoting human flourishing…” While I think that’s a pretty good purpose for morality, at the same time I think he’s somewhat poisoning the well. It’s hard for a person to admit that they disagree with that even if they do. I think it would help if he would point out that he’s voluntarily setting some boundaries on what he think morality is and what we think its purpose ought to be; as is, he’s sort of doing a conjuring trick, by glossing over the fact that he’s using these assumptions before we establish that they’re the general consensus.

    This is a minor criticism, of course, not a sweeping judgment on his view and his message in general. I feel I have to add that caveat because of the way many lunatics begin their attempts to tear down entire edifices of sound thinking and knowledge with what is disguised as reasonable objections.

  29. #29 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    I can think of at least one area were science does not give up the moral answer of what to do. A utilitarian morality would say that the happiness of any population is measured by the average happiness, whereas a Rawlsian morality would say it’s measured by the happiness of the least happy person.

    For example, lets say we have 2 people. Also we can measure happiness on a numerical scale from 0 to 10, where 10 is most happy and 0 is least happy, and 2 is twice as happy as 1.

    The first person is has a happiness of 8 and the second a happiness of 2. Finally lets say we have an option to reduce the first persons happiness by 4 but increase the second persons happiness by 2.

    The utilitarian would say we should not take this option, it would reduce the average from 5 to 3. But the Rawlsian would say we should, since it increases the happiness of the least happy person.

    Though out this thought experiment I’ve assumed happiness can be measured objectively and reliably. Sam Harris presumably does and also believed happiness should have an impact on morality:

    And here is where the real controversy begins: for many people strongly objected to my claim that values (and hence morality) relate to facts about the wellbeing of conscious creatures.

    But, who is right, the utilitarian or the Rawlian. I suspect many people here are leaning towards the Rawlsian, but surely it’s a pure value judgment, devoid of science.

  30. #30 molto legato e sostenuto
    April 17, 2010

    Ugh. Extra comma in my first line, and “he think”. I really need to examine that preview page more diligently.

  31. #31 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    gould1865: Hume is readable, these guys are not, whoever they are, the people you call “mathematics.”

    Vitanyi and Li are mathematicians; as such, they are a part of the institution of mathematics as an anthropological practice.

    Their paper is readable; unfortunately, the paper (as most technical publications) presumes familiarity with considerable of the prior background and terminology for the journal’s field.

    The short form is: Occam’s Razor approximates an underlying mathematical, provable, exact expression. This mathematical expression allows a resolution to the problem, to the extent resolution is possible.

    Understanding the exact expression requires learning the mathematics.

    gould1865: And what about yours? you are willing to say an abstract math “turned up” something, not some individuals?

    The term “mathematics” refers both to the philosophical abstraction as well the human anthropological practice, plus the body of knowledge resulting from the latter. MDLI has “always” been part of the former (since abstracta are timeless); it is now a result of the intermediate, and part of the latter.

    Frankly, I don’t think constantly specifying which of these is referred to will make my writing any more readable for you.

    gould1865: And you are willing to speak of an “ultimate principle” as if it really exists as well known?

    Oh, you’re switching from Induction back to Is-Ought.

    No. I’m not even sure that ought be called “known”, much less “well known”. (Even the solution to induction only deserves “known” rather than “well known”.) However, that’s not the same as saying it’s unknowable.

    gould1865: I know nothing of this “ultimate principle” or “necessity” because it does not exist.

    If it does not exist, then obviously you would not know of it. However, it is an error (affirming the consequent) to therefore presume that because you know nothing of it, it does not exist.

  32. #32 gould1865
    April 17, 2010

    @ abb3w # 12

    Addendum to # 19 directed at abb3w

    Ouji board, that’s the thing. This mysterious writing is put forth and it’s up to the reader to give it meaning. Same as ouji board. Sorry, ouji boards are quite recognizable. Clear thinking and writing never work that way. Oh, you can call it philosophy if you want. Hegel wrote some of the same crap. You call it “mathematics.” It’s fraud. Sorry you are sucked into it, too bad, it’s as pretentious and deceitful as some of the vilest religious puffery and theology, this ouji board. Hope you are able to shake it off, that feeling of inadequacy that impels you toward such stuff, that is different only in labels wanted from religious fraud. Since you find that nothing is sacred you probably agree with the condemnation of the very article you recommended.

  33. #33 hznfrst
    April 17, 2010

    I had to force myself to listen to this incredible drivel from these subhumans! They weren’t describing the Europe I know, or even the planet I know; it was a rant 100% free of any facts whatsoever, and that insufferably smug priest was the worst!

    I could never listen to Rush Limbaugh for more than a few minutes because of his compulsive lying combined with that buffoonish tone of voice, and after this performance Faux News is in the same category: the absolute bottom of the barrel, deserving of nothing but sheer contempt and subject to frequent and blistering commentary from me whether asked for or not!

    I got physically nauseous watching this obscene presentation.

  34. #34 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby: I can think of at least one area were science does not give up the moral answer of what to do.

    This is because of the ambiguity in a prior definition of “moral”. If you define moral using the utilitarian metric, the Rawlian becomes an imperfect approximation to the true-by-definition utilitarian ideal metric; and vice-versa.

    The question is, what is meant by “moral”? (And thereafter, what OUGHT be meant by “moral”?)

    Meyrick Kirby: But, who is right, the utilitarian or the Rawlian.

    Neither. Both are presuming the increase of happiness is something that OUGHT be done, rather than considering that happiness is an evolved algorithm for approximating a metric to give an ordering relationship for what choice OUGHT be made.

    They’re confusing a proximate effect with the ultimate cause.

  35. #35 DLC
    April 17, 2010

    Having used up my allotted time for exposure to mummery, I’ve decided to pass on the video.
    No doubt the Fox Fools can explain to themselves how the big six banks betting against their own securities happened due to European moral decay and not because of good old-fashioned theft.

  36. #36 gould1865
    April 17, 2010

    It seems that you think words mean whatever you say they mean, like the caterpillar with hookah in Alice in Wonderland. Where could you have gotten this idea? you must have students who are beholden to you and deathly afraid to point out where you are stupid.

  37. #37 VermelhoRed
    April 17, 2010

    There, we have to point out an empirical problem, that communist societies haven’t fared so well

    Cuba and Lenin’s Soviet Union would like to have a word with you. Well, if countries could speak, that is.

  38. #38 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    happiness is an evolved algorithm for approximating a metric to give an ordering relationship for what choice OUGHT be made.

    If I understand you, you’re saying happiness has evolved to help us make decisions, yes?

  39. #39 Feynmaniac
    April 17, 2010

    Science cannot answer whether anyone OUGHT to use such a unified principle as a bridge across the is-ought divide – one mistake Harris seems to make.

    Well, if I understand Harris correctly, what he doing is questioning the whole is-ought division.

    _ _ _

    Hume is readable, these guys are not, whoever they are, the people you call “mathematics.”

    Well did you ever consider that the latest discoveries of computational algorithimic theory aren’t that easy to put into everyday language? Or maybe even that’s not the purpose of the article, what with it being in a technical journal and all.

    you are willing to say an abstract math “turned up” something, not some individuals?

    Pfff, reminds of someone reviewing Dawkins book and complaining genes really can’t be “selfish”. That’s a quite common and acceptable figure of speech.

  40. #40 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    @Vermelhored:

    You mean, the Soviet Union that lasted a paltry seventy-odd decades? That Societ Union? Or maybe the Soviet Union as it existed under Lenin, which only lasted until Stalin took over?

    Not what one might call the most succesfull system.

  41. #41 Celtic_Evolution
    April 17, 2010

    You mean, the Soviet Union that lasted a paltry seventy-odd decades?

    Don’t think you did it on purpose, Kieranfoy, but you might want to re-type that… ;^)

  42. #42 Feynmaniac
    April 17, 2010

    Ouji board, that’s the thing. This mysterious writing is put forth and it’s up to the reader to give it meaning. Same as ouji board. Sorry, ouji boards are quite recognizable. Clear thinking and writing never work that way.

    Well, that settles it. If you, a random person on the internet, can’t make heads or tails of a technical paper meant for people who had years of training in the field then it’s clearly nonsense.

  43. #43 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    @Celtic Evolution: Did what? Kinda half-asleep, so mistakes are expected.

  44. #44 TWood
    April 17, 2010

    @ #10 Compulsory Account –

    Thanks for that link!

  45. #45 Foggg
    April 17, 2010

    But, who is right, the utilitarian or the Rawlian.

    And these are not the only consequentialist ethics. Perpetual survival of cognitive moralizers could be the end criteria, which entails as means assorted ‘flourishing’ and ‘desire satisfaction’, weighted to maximally achieve that end, etc.
    Harris is a little arrogant in thinking he’s going plop down simple solutions to all the philosophical conundrums.
    Harris can attempt to challenge the is-ought division but, because of the difference between necessity and possibility, one can obviously out-’ought’ any attempted ‘is’ justification everytime. Unless one sneakily descends into tautology, which Harris does by not defining terms like ‘flourishing’: “The Good is good and better than the Bad.

  46. #46 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    Whoops! Never mind, I see it. Paltry seven decades or seventy years. My bad. Mea culpa.

  47. #47 Pierce R. Butler
    April 17, 2010

    The priest in the Fox Noise segment is “Father” Jonathan Morris, a member of the Legion of Christ whose founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, holds the starring role in Mexico’s share of the Catholic child rape scandal. From numerous reports, it seems that two duties of every young Legionary were to part his hair on the left and to provide sexual services to the insatiable Padre Maciel (does that info help you to view Morris’s telegenic smile in perspective?).

    Of course, it’s not fair to describe the Legion of Christ as if niño-philia were its only claim to fame. This Dan Brown-esque order is also known for child abuse in many other nations, and Maciel has been implicated in Church financial scandals around the world. (Says who Pharyngula commenters don’t provide full – fair ‘n’ balanced, even – theological context?)

    … people who accept reality seem to be better able to deal with it…

    Hey, I think we’ve just found the slogan for the Great Atheist Revolution! With a little twisting, it can even be sung to the tune of the “Internationale”…

  48. #48 Insightful Ape
    April 17, 2010

    Sorry, couldn’t finish the video. Saw half of it and I wanted to throw up.
    Of course it ignores the elephant in the room: of all the countries in Europe, the one hit hardest by the crisis, which needs to be bailed out, is the devoutly orthodox Christian Greece. (A Greek friend once told me that in Greece if you do not have a certificate of baptism by the orthodox church you cannot inherit property). An roman catholic Italy is not far behind. Of the countries affected worse, the “PIIGS” (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain)all happen to be more on the religious side. Whereas the “pagan” Netherlands, Sweden, Rance, Denmark and Norway seem to be doing rather fine.

  49. #49 mattheath
    April 17, 2010

    gould1865 You know, it’s funny I clicked on Abb3w’s link and it took me to a semi-technical paper on information theory and Bayesian statistics aimed at engineers working in machine learning. What was there when you clicked?

  50. #50 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 17, 2010

    You mean, the Soviet Union that lasted a paltry seventy-odd decades? That Soviet Union? Or maybe the Soviet Union as it existed under Lenin, which only lasted until Stalin took over?

    Not what one might call the most successful system.

    America is not a country that can take pot shots based on age. 200 years is not exactly an old, wizened republic. Poland was subjugated under foreign rule for as long as America has existed.

    It’s also worth noting that the system, while it was up, did some things better then us, especially education in the sciences. It also had massive human costs, but it can’t simply be discarded out of hand as having no lessons for us.

  51. #51 VermelhoRed
    April 17, 2010

    You mean, the Soviet Union that lasted a paltry seventy-odd decades? That Societ Union? Or maybe the Soviet Union as it existed under Lenin, which only lasted until Stalin took over?

    Soviet Union during Lenin’s government, until Stalin took over. Not that Stalin was a bad manager, but I think we all agree that he had a blatant disrespect for human rights.

    Lenin didn’t, and turned Russia from a half-absolutist, half-feudalist country into a nation of equality and science. All of that without the human losses that happened during Stalin’s government.

    By the way, you said sevenTY decades. That’s 700 years…

  52. #52 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 17, 2010

    Ah, open foot insert mouth. I knew that seemed odd as I wrote it, and that’s what I get for nto sleeping. I must ignore the ancient incan monkey god when I type.

    Poland was occupied for only half as long as America existed. Still, America is not an old country by a lot of standards.

  53. #53 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    @Rutee: And, your point is? America is still here, alltough I’m torn as to whether that’s a good thing.

    Also, what do you mean, ‘massive human costs’? Human live aren’t currency; a nation that slaughters it’s citizens is worthless, worse, it’s evil.

    @Vermelhored: Perhaps. And yet, it collapsed. It’s no longer here. Whereas capatalist countries are still going strong. And, yeah, no caffiene, weekend, leads to typos.

    Funny typos!

  54. #54 Insightful Ape
    April 17, 2010

    Ironically, while the good father pulled “economic downturn caused by secularism” out of his ass, there is some suggestion that religion itself may not be entirely blameless.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/did-christianity-cause-the-crash/7764/

  55. #55 Cowcakes
    April 17, 2010

    That Priest is correct you know. Look at the wonderful Judeo-Christian morality as practised by Goldman Sachs & Co and how it has brought such wealth and prosperity.

  56. #56 VermelhoRed
    April 17, 2010

    @Kieranfoy: So what that it collapsed? What is your point? I thought the argument here was about what’s good, not what’s “stronger”.

    Cuba’s still up by the way.

  57. #57 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    @Vermehlhored: We were discussing whether P.Z was correct in sayiing Communism does not work. Having collapsed is a good indicator of not working, in my opinion.

    As for Cuba, perhaps, but for how long? What are the conditions there? Medicine? Human rights? Yadda yadda? Good as capatalist nations?

  58. #58 VermelhoRed
    April 17, 2010

    @Kieranfoy: So what that it collapsed? What is your point? I thought the argument here was about what’s good, not what’s “stronger”.

    Cuba’s still up, by the way.

    Bout typos… yeah I know :D

  59. #59 VermelhoRed
    April 17, 2010

    Oops, sorry bout the double post…

    It collapsed once, out of many tries. Communism doesn’t end with the Soviets. Note that democracy appeared in Athens way in the BCs, only to return in the 18th century.

    Cuba has 0% analfabetism, free medical care decades before the US (and a very good one), no significant criminality, and ugly looking cars. In my opinion that’s a fair trade. Comparing Cuba’s living conditions to closely related countries, such as Dominican Republic or Jamaica is laughable.

  60. #60 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Kristian #13

    Correct me if I am wrong. But isn’t the economic problems in Europe a result of the economic problems the USA is in.

    The liquidity crisis which began in 2007 was triggered by a dramatic rise in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures in the US. It caused major adverse consequences for banks and financial markets around the globe. The crisis, which has its roots in the closing years of the 20th century, became apparent in 2007 and has exposed pervasive weaknesses in financial industry regulation and the global financial system.

    The crisis became widely acknowledged when world’s largest banking group, HSBC, wrote down its holdings of subprime-related MBS (mortgage backed securities) by $10.5 billion in February 2007. Between February and September 2007 almost 60 US financial institutions either shut down, suspended operations or were sold. The first European bank to fail was a British bank called Northern Rock. This happened in September 2007.

    So yes, the economic problems started in the US and spread to Europe later.

  61. #61 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    gould1865: This mysterious writing is put forth and it’s up to the reader to give it meaning.

    No. However, to be equipped to understand it, you’ll probably need about four one-semester courses in mathematics; an introductory discrete math course (using Rosen [ISBN-0073229725] or similar), one on probability and statistic (using Ross [ISBN-013603313X] or similar), one on axiomatic set theory (using Devlin [ISBN-0387940944] or similar), and one on complexity theory (using Linz [ISBN-0763737984] or similar).

    With those courses behind you and the textbooks beside you, it ought to be possible to wade through the paper.

    gould1865: Since you find that nothing is sacred you probably agree with the condemnation of the very article you recommended.

    I’ve no problem with it being criticized. I don’t approve of blind condemnation.

    gould1865: It seems that you think words mean whatever you say they mean, like the caterpillar with hookah in Alice in Wonderland.

    Actually, it was Humpty-Dumpty, in Through The Looking Glass.
    Both novels, interestingly, were written as criticism of the weirdness of then-recent mathematical developments; however, most of those developments have become mathematically accepted.

    Of course, such “meaning” is only useful if both people understand the intent. However, that doesn’t preclude speakers from communicating in two differently defined languages. Consider a Frenchman who understands English, speaking with an Englishman who understands French; both can speak their native language, and be understood. Similarly, an American and an Englishman may be able to communicate, although the meaning of “Got a fag?” will be very different depending on which one says it.

    gould1865: you must have students who are beholden to you and deathly afraid to point out where you are stupid.

    No. I’m flattered you mistake me for a professor, but I’m purely an amateur. While a number of people have claimed I’m stupid in places, they generally have not been able to make the point coherently nor persuasively.

    Meyrick Kirby: If I understand you, you’re saying happiness has evolved to help us make decisions, yes?

    Help us make “good” decisions; roughly, yes. As with most products of evolution, it shouldn’t be expected to be perfect; merely “often enough, close enough”.

    Feynmaniac: Well, if I understand Harris correctly, what he doing is questioning the whole is-ought division.

    Somewhat; also somewhat ineptly, IMHO.

  62. #62 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    Help us make “good” decisions; roughly, yes. As with most products of evolution, it shouldn’t be expected to be perfect; merely “often enough, close enough”.

    In that case, does happiness help us make decisions at the individual level or the group level?

  63. #63 RamblinDude
    April 17, 2010

    AAAAARRRRGH! My eyes! My ears!

    The priest has his spiel down pat, complete with that little extra vowel in ?Ga?od.? You hear a lot of his type on Christian talk radio any given day. The wide-eyed, boyish exuberance to win souls for his Lord and Master, the well-practiced distress at non-Christians who haven?t discovered his Lord and Master, marginalizing and slamming societies that don?t worship his Lord and Master?.

    I can?t take more than a minute of this kind of religious stupidity.

  64. #64 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby: In that case, does happiness help us make decisions at the individual level or the group level?

    Both; directly at the individual level, indirectly at the group level. (Since humans have evolved as social animals, group happiness/unhappiness feeds back as an input to individual happiness/unhappiness.)

    On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect guide at either level; merely that it’s frequently a helpful one.

  65. #65 Feynmaniac
    April 17, 2010

    Lenin’s Soviet Union would like to have a word with you. Well, if countries could speak, that is.

    Countries can’t speak, but people can. In Lenin’s Soviet Union the worker’s councils were made to be pretty much powerless, rival parties weren’t allowed, and the “vanguards” just took the role of Tsarists. Stalinism didn’t arise from a vacuum, it built up on what already was there.

  66. #66 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Sunsara Taylor is a disciple of Bob Avakian, who’s an authoritarian Maoist. Avakian hates people who have their own ideas, especially ones that conflict with his ideas. He says in Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy:

    All this flows from the philosophical concept of opinions and conscience as private property. And when you have individuals holding ideas as private property, the greater social good is going to be interfered with and hindered, just as it is generally in the production and exchange of commodities.

    Consider the following run-on sentence:

    The struggle to reach communism does involve and require a conscious and organized leading group, a vanguard, which, if it is going to lead the advance to communism, must base itself not on a utopian ideal but on a scientific understanding of human society and its historical development, and the fact that this historical development, while not following any predetermined plan nor any transcendental will, has nevertheless led humanity to a situation where there is the possibility?not the inevitability but the possibility?of making the leap to communism; a vanguard which, on that basis, and through applying the scientific outlook and methodology of communism, brings this understanding to the masses of people, enables them to take this up and mobilizes them to wage an increasingly conscious struggle on this basis: to first overthrow the capitalist system and establish the socialist system, with the dictatorship of the proletariat; and then, while defending the socialist state against threats and attacks by remaining reactionary states and reactionary forces, within the country and internationally, to advance through a whole period of socialist transition to communism as part of, and together with, this same struggle throughout the world. [emphasis added]

    The Secret Police and the commissars will first determine who is “reactionary” and then “defend the state” against internal reaction. People like me for whom ideas are personal property will be the first to be put against the wall and shot when comes the revolution.

  67. #67 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    abb3w:

    Both; directly at the individual level, indirectly at the group level. (Since humans have evolved as social animals, group happiness/unhappiness feeds back as an input to individual happiness/unhappiness.)

    On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect guide at either level; merely that it’s frequently a helpful one.

    Which lead me to the question, how do humans as a group use happiness to make decisions that effect for the whole group? Or maybe, how should humans use happiness to effect happiness for the whole group?

  68. #68 Aaron Baker
    April 17, 2010

    I was at the event last night, and I want to reiterate my thanks to P.Z. Myers for the support he’s shown Greg Koger in his ongoing travails with the Cook County justice system and the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (both titles, “justice” and “ethical,” are looking like bad jokes at the moment).

    molto legato e sostenuto (#5) wrote: “The god thing is just a way he dresses up his philosophy. While I’m not saying anything new, I do wish such people would realize that by dressing up their vague metaphor and calling it “god”, they’re giving shelter to millions of believe whose belief in god is actually some sort of interventionist being, and most belief systems involving such an entity are pretty nasty and have negative consequences for humanity.”

    From what Bob Bossie had to say, I don’t think it’s just “dressing up” for him. He mentioned a time in his youth when had an overwhelming experience: God was in everything and everyone, and everyone and everything were in God. Together with that realization came a moral awareness: that everyone was worthy of reverence. I’m sympathetic, having had a similar experience at about the age of eighteen. People on this blog can immediately reel out a hundred or more reasons why such an experience isn’t good enough, given the apparent nature of the world around us. I gradually came to agree that it wasn’t good enough either–but you have to have an experience like that, I think, to understand how powerful it is. Without knowing him beyond what he told us, I would venture to say that God is real for him in a way not true of even most people who profess to believe in God.

  69. #69 Roestigraben
    April 17, 2010

    People like me for whom ideas are personal property will be the first to be put against the wall and shot when comes the revolution.

    Come on, now. You know that honour belongs to the marketing department of Sirius Cybernetics.

  70. #70 Zeno
    April 17, 2010

    Oh, God. What a painful video.

    And Father Morris sounds gay.

    I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that because it sounds like I was using “gay” as a pejorative. Maybe “prissy” is better.

  71. #71 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    @Zeno: Effete? Effeminate? An absolute fop?

    I like the word fop. It sounds exactly like what it is.

  72. #72 somewhereingreece
    April 17, 2010

    I am probably one of the few that managed to watch that clip all the way to the end. The presence ginger bench-presser threw a wrench in the mechanics of my theory that someone is slipping hallucinogenic mushrooms in Fox News water supply.

    Or maybe he does not frequent the place. Who knows.

  73. #73 somewhereingreece
    April 17, 2010

    @Kieranfoy: Great, now that you called that sad excuse for a chordate effeminate I want to have a sex change operation.

  74. #74 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 17, 2010

    As for Cuba, perhaps, but for how long? What are the conditions there? Medicine? Human rights? Yadda yadda? Good as capatalist nations?

    It’s not doing well. It’s just like every other tourist country in the carribean (Including the capitalist ones): Shitty outside of the places where tourists are supposed to go.

    Incidentally, to folks saying “The USSR died, therefore communism can’t work”.

    Bear in mind a great number of capitalist countries also die. Communism got a very, VERY limited number of shots. Probably for the best, given the general human costs, but it’s worth noting.

  75. #75 somewhereingreece
    April 17, 2010

    Communism can’t work because it assumes that everyone in a communist state is going to happily conform to the dictions of the Big Brother, er, sorry, General Secretary and work according to one’s skills with no slacking off.

    In reality, humans are not that accommodating, and just to ensure that noone is slacking in work and mooching off the state there would have to be strict oversight. It can only go downhill from there.

  76. #76 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 17, 2010

    And Father Morris sounds gay.

    I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that because it sounds like I was using “gay” as a pejorative. Maybe “prissy” is better.

    I have to agree – it struck me right off the bat. I didn’t take you to mean that “gay” was a pejorative. Fr. Bob does, in fact, have some stereotypically gay mannerisms.

    (Disclaimers before anyone gets in high dudgeon: No, that’s not an iron-clad means to detect someone’s sexuality, and no, not every gay person exhibits them, and yes, some people who are straight/bi/queer/whatever have such mannerisms. There is, however, a correlation, and denying that seems to me be politically based, not fact-based).

    I’m not intensely interested in detecting gayness everywhere (reminder: my name here is tongue in cheek, not a declaration of my life’s work), but when a priest sets off my gay-dar, it’s hard to ignore. I’ve come across many, many uber-religious men – priests, church music directors, pastors – who were, I’m sorry, obviously gay to everyone but themselves. My experience is anecdotal, of course, but I’ve seen a disproportionate number of closeted gay men among the priesthood as compared to the population at large.

    Such people make me simultaneously sad and angry. Sad for them that they’re willingly and deliberately oppressing themselves, and angry because they’re using their disproportionate institutional power to prop up structures of oppression that hurt other queers.

    So, I don’t know if Fr. Bob is gay, but I’d put good odds on it. It is clear, thought, that he’s an idiot, his views are offensive, and his “polished” schtick and persona is transparently put on.

  77. #77 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    @Somewhereingreece: Sorry, didn’t mean to insult women.

    I meant his mannerisms resembled those of a female snail, not those of a female human being.

    However, I would also point you in the direction of Thailand. If they can pull it off, they can put it on, eh?

  78. #78 erpease
    April 17, 2010

    To #48 Insightful Ape

    I think your friend is wrong that you have to be baptized in the Orthodox church to inherit property in Greece. I found nothing on the net about that and I suspect it would be against European Union law. The one role a baptismal certificate might be used for is evidence that one is indeed a child of a certain person and therefore entitled to a certain percentage of the estate no matter what the will states or if there is no will (this is my guess).

  79. #79 gould1865
    April 17, 2010

    @ Feynmaniac

    You chimerical toad, you don’t know how much math I know. You are a sucker for this guy’s pretension. If no one but a cabal could understand it, why is he citing it here? The answer is he wants to look smart by tapping into the common feeling “Oh, there’s something else today I don’t understand.”

    Priests have told their flock for centuries that here is something they can’t understand, a great mystery. Same thing here, and “mathematics” means whatever he decides on the spot and his logic is not so hot, not even freshman, when he alleges a syllogism I never asserted. You think that’s sharp.

    Today you are a disgrace to the memory of Feynman, and you would never have put the o-ring in ice water, nor gone to Tuva, nor seen math in colors. Suck it up. Today will pass.

    Whatever his name is is a cleric, no different. If you can’t see that, you can’t.

  80. #80 Nerdette
    April 17, 2010

    PZ, why couldn’t you have come to UChicago before I graduated?? You’ve been there at least twice in the last year, but nary the four years I was present!

    Anyway, there is a very noble picture of you standing at a podium in Hutch Commons (oh, how I miss Reynolds Club) that was tagged on Facebook. It would make a great header shot for this post :3

  81. #81 somewhereingreece
    April 17, 2010

    @Kieranfoy: I was not insulted, I just felt, you know, icky. Like the time I was five and playing on the floor with my sister and when I grabbed a table leg to pull myself up i realised I had laso crushed a grasshopper. And I believe I can do better than Thailand.

    @erpease: I have to agree with you, A baptism certificate is used as proof of identity in such cases. There are a lot of ways in which the both the orthodox and the non-orthodox are getting shafted by the Church and the state, but this is not one of them.

  82. #82 gould1865
    April 17, 2010

    @ abb3w

    You wrote: “While a number of people have claimed I’m stupid in places, they generally have not been able to make the point coherently nor persuasively.”

    Ha! You mean not able to persuade you! That figures, doesn’t it, and it hardly counts as you seem to think. “A number” which you cavalierly evade with is surely a large number.

    Don’t flatter yourself about students. That means you have constructed all that idea of your defining words just as convenient for yourself by yourself.

    I do like that you know about Alice though. I didn’t think you would and so did not check it beforehand and still will not. Certainly that changes things, and you are very like Humpty Dumpty then sitting on a wall.

    Feynmaniac is ready to buy your line. Tell him where to take the courses.

    But as for me, and I would think many, perhaps for PZ — no too nice, if you are going to cite an article that can’t be read, you are to be called out as a cabalistic fraud. By the way, the writing was so bad, so bad, that I refused to read beyond the abstract and then the first paragraph. So we will never know whether I could have made some sense out of it or not. What you don’t understand is that I have to supply the meaning, me, it’s not on the page, and that is very bad writing, is a type of fraud. What you have written about courses admits as much.

    Now I’ve got four courses for you to take. Sophomore English 1 and 2, Philosophical Rhetoric 1, and How to Know When you are writing bullshit 101. You could use them all.

  83. #83 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 17, 2010

    Sophomore English 1 and 2,

    Says the commenter whose own prose is so inartfully constructed that I had to re-read sentences several times to get their meaning. Gould, meet Irony.

  84. #84 Feynmaniac
    April 17, 2010

    gould1865,

    you don’t know how much math I know.

    I don’t give a shit how much math you know. The fact you were dismissing the paper merely because you couldn’t understand it shows you’re ignorant.

    If no one but a cabal could understand it, why is he citing it here?

    Ask abb3w. In any case, this is a blog with a high number of people trained in math/science. It’s not outrageous to assume some could make some sense out of it.

    The answer is he wants to look smart by tapping into the common feeling “Oh, there’s something else today I don’t understand.”

    A lot of people cite things here that I’m ignorant of. I’m glad. It lets me learn of few things I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

    Priests have told their flock for centuries that here is something they can’t understand, a great mystery.

    The comparison is not remotely similar.

    Today you are a disgrace to the memory of Feynman, and you would never have put the o-ring in ice water, nor gone to Tuva, nor seen math in colors

    And you a disgrace to Stephen Jay Gould and the year 1865.

    Read Feynman’s thesis ‘The Principle of Least Action in Quantum Mechanics’. Can you understand it? If so, then you’re part of “cabal” about the same size that could understand the paper linked to by abb3w. Sometimes things can be easily explained by putting o-rings in ice water. Other times, things like path integral approach to quantum mechanics or the minimum length description principle are quite complicated. There’s a reason people study for years to understand this stuff.

    This may or may not be a solution to Hume’s problem of induction. Hume was a great philosopher and lived in era where it was possible to make great contribution to knowledge and still be somewhat readable (at least to people today). Well, we have learned a lot since then. It may very well be that the solution to Hume’s problem is beyond most people. Do feel the same way about the solution to Fermat’s last theorem?

    If you can’t see how a technical paper is different from religious mumbo-jumbo merely because you can’t tell the difference then you’re seriously damaged.

  85. #85 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 17, 2010

    @Chimerical Toad Feynmaniac:

    Would you kindly point me to a site that describes how to do that nifty comic sans font thing you did? I would so love to learn that skill.

  86. #86 DaveWTC
    April 17, 2010

    @#48 Yes, I tried to watch the video and couldn’t do it either. Stupidity is a bit like alcohol: a little might not hurt but so much at once could do serious and permanent harm. Varney has come up with the most ridiculous and contrived BS I’ve seen in a long time. I think they’ll be “Faux Views” to me from now on.

  87. #87 Feynmaniac
    April 17, 2010

    Josh,

    I don’t really know any sites that teach that skill. I saw some people do it here, went to “View Source” and copy-and-pasted.

    To get comics sans:
    &ltblockquote style=”font-family: Comic Sans MS;”&gt Text here &lt/blockquote&gt

    Text here

    To get comics sans + grumpy:
    &lt blockquote style=”background: rgb(255, 255, 255) url(http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/tiny_gumby_trans.gif) no-repeat scroll 0pt 0pt; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial; font-family: Comic Sans MS; padding-left: 50px; &gt Text here &lt/blockquote&gt

    Text here

    Hope that helps.

  88. #88 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 17, 2010

    Thanks Feyn!

    You really ought to consider changing your nick – “chimerical toad” is the best and most unintentionally hilarious insult I’ve seen in a long while. :)

  89. #89 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 17, 2010

    And you a disgrace to Stephen Jay Gould and the year 1865.

    It may be that gould1865 refers to Jay Gould who was active in the 1860s. Jay Gould was no relation to Stephen Jay Gould, despite the similarities in names.

  90. #90 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    I wonder if this works:

    Gumpy

  91. #91 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    that video was fucking painful… Europe is economically better off than the US, even with failing Greece accounted for.

  92. #92 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Fun with fonts

  93. #93 DaveWTC
    April 17, 2010

    @#84 & #89. ‘gould1865′ might even refer to the guy who described a now extinct Aussie bird called (and I’m just reporting what I read here!) the Norfolk Island Kaka, according to a quick search. If so, then the appropriateness of the moniker ‘gould1865′ should not escape anyone.

  94. #94 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    Europe is economically better off than the US, even with failing Greece accounted for.

    As a European I wish that were true, but, measured by GDP (PPP) per capita, only Norway and Luxembourg win.

  95. #95 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    April 17, 2010

    You might to watch/listen Ken Ham’s twisted version of reality. It is recommended that you put your brain is a safe place.

  96. #96 negentropyeater
    April 17, 2010

    The amount of stupidity, non evidenced based statements, incoherent propositions spouted on that 6′:46″ video is flabergasting. How can people tolerate this.

    That nutcase Stewart something asks, “can one link secularism and economic decline”? Even within Europe, if one would look at the most secular nations (Sweden, Finaland, France) and compare with the most religious nations (Ireland, Poland, Italy) one could easily conclude that there is no link whatsoever. On a worldwide basis the only apparent link is that the more secular nations are generally in better shape than the most religious. And even then, it’s not that religiosity or secularism are the cause of economic decline but most probably the other way round.

    PZ says,

    Humanism says that we should strive to maximize the long-term welfare and happiness of humans

    That’s a good starting point but I think that’s the easy part, on which probably most people will agree.

    The real difficult questions are:

    1) how do we measure the welfare and happiness of humans?
    2) what do we seek to maximize? The average welfare and happiness of humans, or the minimum value?
    3) what’s long term and how do we balance long term risks with short term ones? It might be easier and faster to maximize this for all humans alive now ignoring the risks for those who will be alive in 100 years.
    4) and how do we know whether the decisions we take strive to achieve this goal?

    Science, empiricism, logic,critical reasoning can provide us with the tools and the methods to explore these questions and educate our decisions. That’s the only light we’ve got. But we are bound to make mistakes, so how do we make sure we build something that’s not only better, but also more resilient to whatever mistakes we make.

  97. #97 IanM
    April 17, 2010

    For my own part I don’t see it so much as a rejection of their God but a rejection of them in that the God they worship is a reflection and a projection of their own values, values which accommodate war, greed, vanity, the rejection of reason and, above all else, hypocrisy. Hope they don’t take it personally.

  98. #98 VermelhoRed
    April 17, 2010

    The Secret Police and the commissars will first determine who is “reactionary” and then “defend the state” against internal reaction. People like me for whom ideas are personal property will be the first to be put against the wall and shot when comes the revolution.

    If you are foolish enough to claim your ideas out loud during the first stages of the revolution, well, you’ll probably be killed /imprisoned /tortured.

    If stay shut until the revolution achieved hegemony, then nothing wrong would happen to you.

    Similarly, if I shouted out lout I was a communist during the 50s in the US, or in Brazil during the late 60s or the 70s, I’d be killed /imprisoned /tortured as well.

    I’m only allowed to claim my ideas now, because, let’s be frank, I can’t do anything. I’m no threat to the capitalist system, so they might as well let me speak. That’s the way things are, it’s not something that happens exclusively to communist states.

  99. #99 Walton
    April 17, 2010

    I watched the first two minutes or so of this video and felt my jaw involuntarily dropping.

    “Europe’s economic decline”* is due to “Europeans” being a bunch of “pagan losers”? And this guy was actually saying this seriously, and meant it? This isn’t some incredibly lifelike spoof?

    I swear Fox News has got more stupid over the last couple of years. Either that, or I’ve become more sensitive to stupidity.

    (*It doesn’t seem to register on their radar that “Europe” consists of numerous different countries with different cultures, economies and levels of religiosity. In their minds, it’s some sort of homogenous eeebil secularist writhing mass.)

  100. #100 negentropyeater
    April 17, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby,

    As a European I wish that were true, but, measured by GDP (PPP) per capita, only Norway and Luxembourg win.

    And of course you think that indicator alone tells you whether a country is better off than another one?

    Let’s take the hypothetical country of Kirbyland:

    it has 1,100,000 inhabitants.
    100,000 Kirbyers make $ 1 million per year.
    1,000,000 Kirbyers make no money at all, zilch.
    The average GDP per capita is $90,909 per year, higher than any other country on the planet.

    Do you really think Kirbyland is economically better off than any other country on the planet?

  101. #101 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    And of course you think that indicator alone tells you whether a country is better off than another one?

    Which indicator(s) would you use?

  102. #102 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    I dunno. Must be pretty cushy for the rich Kirbylanders.

    But, yeah, I do hear GDP is a fatally flawed way of understanding how an economy is doing.

    We need a better system. Maybe rank countries on a scale of one to one hundred Pharyngules.

  103. #103 David Marjanovi?
    April 17, 2010

    Soviet Union during Lenin’s government, until Stalin took over. Not that Stalin was a bad manager, but I think we all agree that he had a blatant disrespect for human rights.

    Lenin didn’t, and turned Russia from a half-absolutist, half-feudalist country into a nation of equality and science. All of that without the human losses that happened during Stalin’s government.

    What the fuck.

    What about the deliberately engineered famine in Ukraine?

    I don’t even need to mention the lack of freedom of thought (let alone expression) that is universal in communist countries.

    Ironically, while the good father pulled “economic downturn caused by secularism” out of his ass, there is some suggestion that religion itself may not be entirely blameless.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/did-christianity-cause-the-crash/7764/

    Was about time someone pointed that out.

    Note that democracy appeared in Athens way in the BCs, only to return in the 18th century.

    Why do so many people forget Switzerland so much of the time…

    While I am at it, it’s a good question whether democracy ever appeared. Discussions among 150 equals till a consensus is reached appears to be the default state for Homo sapiens, found in hunter-gatherer villages in the Congo rainforest just as well as in agricultural villages in the highlands of New Guinea (where agriculture is no less than 10,000 years old).

    Cuba has 0% analfabetism, free medical care decades before the US (and a very good one), no significant criminality, and ugly looking cars. In my opinion that’s a fair trade.

    OK. Let’s blame Cuba’s poverty entirely on the US sanctions, for the sake of the argument. That leaves the lack of freedom of thought… and the lack of freedom to be homosexual.

    No, Cuba is not a nice place to live, no matter what you think about Western consumerism or whatever.

    Which lead me to the question, how do humans as a group use happiness to make decisions that effect for the whole group? Or maybe, how should humans use happiness to effect happiness for the whole group?

    Empathy?

    a female snail

    No such thing. They’re all hermaphrodites. :-)

    how to do that nifty comic sans font thing

    If all you want is the font, put

    style="font-family:Comic Sans MS">

    into a <blockquote>, <a>, <p>, or <span> tag. If you want the Gumby picture, too, you need this:

    <blockquote style="border-left: 2px solid rgb(204, 204, 204); background: transparent url(/pharyngula/tiny_gumby_trans.gif) no-repeat scroll 0% 0%; min-height: 64px; padding-left: 52px; font-family: 'Comic Sans MS';">

    Thanks to Owlmirror.

  104. #104 skeptical scientist
    April 17, 2010

    Hume didn’t have any solution to the problem of induction, either; but mathematics has turned up one recently, even though it has limits to the usefulness.

    I’ll say! Saying that a principle which is mathematically valid but impossible to carry out even in principle because it is, by its very nature, incomputable has “limits to its usefulness” is quite the understatement.

    However, I don’t see how it solves the philosophical problem of induction in any way. What it does is provide a good theoretical model for “perfect” induction. The problem of induction, to Hume, is that there is no reason to expect that inductive reasoning should be valid: why should the universe have this property that its future events are predictable by past events. In Solomonoff/Minimal Description Length induction, one can prove that inductive reasoning holds, provided that the universe operates in a computable fashion (or, allowing for a nondeterministic universe, provided it evolves according to some computable probability measure.) See corollary 2 to theorem 11, and note particularly the requirement that mu be a recursive semimeasure. So it doesn’t solve the problem at all, because it still assumes facts about the universe that cannot be justified by reason alone. (Here it assumes that the universe evolves in a computable fashion, as opposed to the usual assumption for induction that it evolves in a predictable fashion.)

    That said, I never really cared much about the supposed problem of induction. Induction seems to work well in practice, and the idea that we can’t prove it is a valid source of knowledge seems rather irrelevant.

  105. #105 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    They’re all hermaphrodites. :-)

    Oh, damn. There goes my Pharyngula cred.

  106. #106 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    As a European I wish that were true, but, measured by GDP (PPP) per capita, only Norway and Luxembourg win.

    as a European living in the U.S., I’m telling you you’re a fucking clueless moron. Americans are, personally and as a country, over their head in debt, and the U.S. is gutting its infrastructure to survive the crisis. The day bridges literally start crumbling under your precious ass because there’s no money and no political will to rebuild them, and people dying by the ten thousands due to lack of access to medical care, you can talk about the US being better off.

    Until then, comparing mere GDP will be treated as the joke it is.

  107. #107 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 17, 2010

    If you are foolish enough to claim your ideas out loud during the first stages of the revolution, well, you’ll probably be killed /imprisoned /tortured.

    If stay shut until the revolution achieved hegemony, then nothing wrong would happen to you.

    If this is part of your revolution I want nothing to do with it.

    I’m only allowed to claim my ideas now, because, let’s be frank, I can’t do anything. I’m no threat to the capitalist system, so they might as well let me speak.

    There’s plenty you and other people can do. It’s not easy, it’s a lot of work and change won’t happen overnight, but it can happen.

  108. #108 David Marjanovi?
    April 17, 2010

    Aaaaah fuck. The <pre> tag eliminates line breaks. So here’s the Gumby code again (a simpler version than the one Feynmaniac uses, without all that silly Mozilla-only stuff):

    style=”border-left: 2px solid rgb(204, 204, 204); background: transparent url(/pharyngula/tiny_gumby_trans.gif) no-repeat scroll 0% 0%; min-height: 64px; padding-left: 52px; font-family: ‘Comic Sans MS’;”

    …Oh, look, an opportunity to use it:

    If stay shut until the revolution achieved hegemony, then nothing wrong would happen to you.

    Dude, my father is from Titoist Yugoslavia. Even in the 1970s, if you didn’t shut up, you were in serious trouble.

    Similarly, if I shouted out lout I was a communist during the 50s in the US, or in Brazil during the late 60s or the 70s, I’d be killed /imprisoned /tortured as well.

    That’s entirely true. It’s also the logical fallacy called tu quoque. You should be ashamed.

    That’s the way things are

    You’re actually making excuses for it!?!

    What the fuck.

  109. #109 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    Americans are, personally and as a country, over their head in debt

    I count about 15 European countries with higher public debt than the US.

    people dying by the ten thousands due to lack of access to medical care

    Mortality is not a measure of economic wealth.

  110. #110 David Marjanovi?
    April 17, 2010

    Induction seems to work well in practice

    Unless you equate it with methodological naturalism, do we even use induction?

    I mean, the reason why I think the sun will rise tomorrow isn’t the fact that it has always done so so far. It’s the fact that if any rogue celestial body capable of messing with the Earth’s rotation or orbit were flying around close enough to us to make a mess, we’d have discovered it; in other words, I’m deducing tomorrow’s sunrise from the theory of relativity, the conservations of energy and impulse, and the like. Oh, and, from the theory of star development ? the sun won’t become a red giant or go supernova anytime soon if that theory is anywhere near correct.

  111. #111 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Mortality is not a measure of economic wealth.

    no one is talking about economic wealth. we’re talking about economic health. And good infrastructure is of course part of the economic health and stability of a nation. Europe is more stable, livable, and less prone to collapses that disrupt people’s lives.

  112. #112 Sven DiMilo
    April 17, 2010

    There are plenty of dioecious gastropods. Pulmonate snails (e.g. Helix, aka escargot) are hermaphrodites, though.

  113. #113 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    no one is talking about economic wealth. we’re talking about economic health.

    Sounds to me that you’re talking more about human development than economics alone.

  114. #114 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Sounds to me that you’re talking more about human development than economics alone.

    obviously.

    but the point was that Europe is not worse of economically; not as a nation, and not as individual people, either. But a lot of that is made invisible by measuring only the GDP, since it doesn’t show where most of this wealth is (accumulating at the very top, with barely anything left for most Americans), nor how it must be spend to cover things covered by basic tax-based infrastructure in Europe, nor does it show that the U.S. economy has been based on people spending everything they have and more (consumer spending being a leading driver of the US economy) at least since Reagan.

  115. #115 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 17, 2010

    I’m deducing tomorrow’s sunrise from the theory of relativity, the conservations of energy and impulse, and the like. Oh, and, from the theory of star development ? the sun won’t become a red giant or go supernova anytime soon if that theory is anywhere near correct.

    Sure, but isn’t induction being used to get the theory of general relativity and theories of stellar structures?

  116. #116 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    But a lot of that is made invisible by measuring only the GDP

    No one says GDP is perfect, but inless you come up with a better measure, it’s mearly hearsay that Europe is econmically better.

  117. #117 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 17, 2010

    If stay shut until the revolution achieved hegemony, then nothing wrong would happen to you.

    Ever hear of the Stalinist Purges or the Cultural Revolution? How about the Killing Fields?

  118. #118 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    No one says GDP is perfect, but inless you come up with a better measure, it’s mearly hearsay that Europe is econmically better.

    yes, more people being better off with fewer economic disruptions and obstacles is “hearsay”

    you really are an idiot.

  119. #119 Walton
    April 17, 2010

    If you are foolish enough to claim your ideas out loud during the first stages of the revolution, well, you’ll probably be killed /imprisoned /tortured.

    If stay shut until the revolution achieved hegemony, then nothing wrong would happen to you.

    Seriously, I don’t get how anyone thinks this kind of apologia for the mass murder and oppression perpetrated by Marxist-Leninist regimes is even remotely OK.

    Stalin murdered more people than Hitler. Mao murdered more still. Marxism-Leninism is a brutal and viciously authoritarian ideology which entirely jettisons the greatest achievement of modern human civilisation – namely, the liberal ideals of individual freedom and limited government. It enslaves individuals to the state. And it also causes massive poverty and deprivation.

    I don’t know anything about Sunsara Taylor, or what kind of “communist” she is: there are plenty of small-c communists who are not Marxist-Leninists. But if she is an apologist for Lenin, then she is on the same moral level as an apologist for Hitler, and Professor Myers was entirely wrong to agree to serve on a panel with her.

    I should add, though, that I fully support Ms Taylor’s freedom of speech – and VermelhoRed’s freedom of speech, too. However repugnant someone’s ideas are, they should be free to express them without any form of censorship or fear of coercion or violence. Unlike VermelhoRed, I don’t believe in forcibly silencing my opponents; rather, I’m happy to let VermelhoRed’s moral bankruptcy and crass stupidity speak for itself.

  120. #120 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    yes, more people being better off with fewer economic disruptions and obstacles is “hearsay”

    I asked for a measure? Where is it? What do you mean by an economic disruption? Where is your data?

  121. #121 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Where is your data?

    This from the idjit who doesn’t understand the peer reviewed scientific literature isn’t data? What a loserl….

  122. #122 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    economic disruption are such things as having to quit your job because gas is too expensive; or going bankrupt because of illness, or becoming homeless because of a single insufficiently large paycheck.

    the data for this is out there. google scholar is your friend.

  123. #123 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    This from the idjit who doesn’t understand the peer reviewed scientific literature isn’t data? What a loserl….

    What literature, you haven’t provided any literature. Links? And what has the scientific literature got to do with economics?

  124. #124 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    And what has the scientific literature got to do with economics?

    *facepalm*

  125. #125 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 17, 2010

    What literature, you haven’t provided any literature.

    I did. The literature that is found in libraries in institutions of higher learning world world wide. Compared to your unevidenced assertions…. WHAT A LOSER….

  126. #126 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    April 17, 2010

    Which indicator(s) would you use?

    A start could well be the variance in addition to the average income. Might also look at how many peaks the distribution has.

    As for “happiness”, it seems to me that sociologist, psychologist &c do their best to develop indices for that sorta thing. Even if the science gets badder the closer you get to humans, it’s not likely to all be complete bunk.

  127. #127 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 17, 2010

    Sweet Christ on toast Meyrick, you really are a one-note bore.

    “Where is YOUr Evidenzze3s??!!!11!!”

    “Where is your factseses!!!???/”

    “Gimme jus won sitateatiaonz!!!!ELVENTY”

  128. #128 Walton
    April 17, 2010

    This thread is positively bulging with blithering idiocy from a variety of directions. It’s like having lukewarm custard poured into one’s nose, mouth and both ears at the same time.

  129. #129 Roestigraben
    April 17, 2010

    Apart drom susceptibility to economic disruptions on the national level, maybe one should simply consider indicators measuring the quality of life. Stuff like the availability and quality of public services, the duration of an average working week or the grade of environmental pollution would come to mind. That said, please don’t crash yet another thread, Meyrick.

  130. #130 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    This place is a toilet bowl of nonsense.

  131. #131 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 17, 2010
    It’s like having lukewarm custard poured into one’s nose, mouth and both ears at the same time.

    Great description, Walton! Pseudo-custard would be even closer to the mark, not a real egg-n-cream concoction, but some anodyne paste thickened with cornstarch.

  132. #132 Kieranfoy
    April 17, 2010

    @Walton: When it’s not like having acid squirted up your arse. Custard in the ears is far too mild for mass slaughter apologists.

  133. #133 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    This place is a toilet bowl of nonsense.

    says the fuckwit who thinks economics aren’t a science.

  134. #134 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 17, 2010

    No one says GDP is perfect, but inless you come up with a better measure

    When we’re comparing several countries there are some severe problems with GDP. These comparisons can be inaccurate as they do not take into account local differences in the quality of goods, even when adjusted for purchasing power parity. This type of adjustment to an exchange rate is controversial because of the difficulties of finding comparable baskets of goods to compare purchasing power across countries. For instance, the people in Country A may eat more meat than those in Country B, even though they consume on average the same daily number of calories. This difference in material well being will not show up in GDP statistics. This is especially true for goods that are not traded globally, such as housing.

    There are alternatives and supplements to GDP.

    ? Human development index (HDI) – HDI uses GDP as a part of its calculation and then factors in indicators of life expectancy and education levels.
    ? Genuine progress indicator (GPI) or Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) – The GPI and the ISEW take the same raw information supplied for GDP and then adjust for income distribution, add for the value of household and volunteer work, and subtract for crime and pollution.
    ? Gini coefficient – The Gini coefficient measures the disparity of income within a nation.
    ? Wealth estimates – The World Bank has developed a system for combining monetary wealth with intangible wealth (institutions and human capital) and environmental capital.
    ? Private Product Remaining – Austrian School economists argue that because government spending is taken from productive sectors and produces goods that consumers do not want, it is a burden on the economy and thus should be deducted.

    Some people have looked beyond standard of living at a broader sense of quality of life or well-being:

    ? European Quality of Life Survey – The survey, first published in 2005, assessed quality of life across European countries through a series of questions on overall subjective life satisfaction, satisfaction with different aspects of life, and sets of questions used to calculate deficits of time, loving, being and having.[26]
    ? Gross national happiness – The Centre for Bhutanese Studies is working on a complex set of subjective and objective indicators to measure ‘national happiness’ in various domains (living standards, health, education, eco-system diversity and resilience, cultural vitality and diversity, time use and balance, good governance, community vitality and psychological well-being). This set of indicators would be used to assess progress towards gross national happiness, which they have already identified as being the nation’s priority, above GDP.
    ? Happy Planet Index – The happy planet index (HPI) is an index of human well-being and environmental impact, introduced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in 2006. It measures the environmental efficiency with which human well-being is achieved within a given country or group. Human well-being is defined in terms of subjective life satisfaction and life expectancy while environmental impact is defined by the Ecological Footprint.

  135. #135 Caine, Fleur du mal
    April 17, 2010

    MK:

    This place is a toilet bowl of nonsense.

    If it is, you would be the excrement in the bowl.

  136. #136 Caine, Fleur du mal
    April 17, 2010

    Walton:

    It’s like having lukewarm custard poured into one’s nose, mouth and both ears at the same time.

    Excellent descriptor, Walton.

  137. #137 Red John
    April 17, 2010

    But as for me, and I would think many, perhaps for PZ — no too nice, if you are going to cite an article that can’t be read, you are to be called out as a cabalistic fraud.

    I’m glad that he posted it. Who says that it can’t be read? Just because you don’t have the necessary mathematical background, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be read. I think what you really meant to say is

    if you are going to cite an article that I don’t understand, you are to be called out as a cabalistic fraud.

    If this were actually the case, I fear the average post on Pharyngula would have about 5 comments.

    What you don’t understand is that I have to supply the meaning, me, it’s not on the page, and that is very bad writing, is a type of fraud. What you have written about courses admits as much.

    Now I’ve got four courses for you to take. Sophomore English 1 and 2,

    How can someone seriously write these 2 sentences in the same post? Also, saying something like “the terms and concepts discussed in this paper have meaning, which you can learn by studying theses topics” is not the same thing as saying “if I don’t understand this paper and you say I have to learn something before I can, then this paper is meaningless because I would be supplying the meaning”. Are you really that fucking stupid?

  138. #138 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 17, 2010

    MK, what ‘Tis says is gold. What you say is nonsense. Try the peer reviewed literature, or acknowledge you are an evidenceless fool. Make up your mind an live with the consequences…

  139. #139 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    A start could well be the variance in addition to the average income. Might also look at how many peaks the distribution has.

    Is that not a measure of economic equality rather than economic health/wealth? Inequality is usually measured by the Gini coefficient, which is where Europe does indeed do better than America.

    Apart from susceptibility to economic disruptions on the national level, maybe one should simply consider indicators measuring the quality of life.

    I’m not sure how we could measure susceptability to disruptions. The best/easiest I can think of is to measure how long and deep countries last in recession (negative growth).

    As for quality of life, as I mentioned before, the human development index is the most obvious. On that scale some European countries do better than the US, most notably the Nordic countries, but other do worse.

    That said, please don’t crash yet another thread, Meyrick.

    I’m not sure anything I said on this thread could be considered trollish. No doubt Josh, et al. will disagree, but I let you make up your own mind.

  140. #140 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 17, 2010

    ‘Tis, is what MK the troll linked to anything other than nonsense…

  141. #141 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    April 17, 2010

    Now, now, ‘Tis,

    Let’s not confuse the troll with facts.

    (I appreciate them, though.)

  142. #142 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    I’m not sure how we could measure susceptability to disruptions. The best/easiest I can think of is to measure how long and deep countries last in recession (negative growth).

    well, it’s certainly the easiest, but also the least accurate, since the effect recessions have on people depends on the infrastructure available to them. Being without a job is significantly more disruptive when there’s no safety net. Recessions only measure how much money circulates through the economy, not how economically healthy and wealthy the people in that economy are.

    And just to be extra annoying, I’ll throw in the existence of the barter economy, and social capital used to solve economic problems.

    The economic health of nations cannot be measured by a single metric; especially not those that don’t use time as a variable, and/or measure only how much money cycles through the economy, not what all that money actually does.

  143. #143 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    ‘Tis Himself, OM:

    HDI: As noted above, US is beaten by some European countries, but not others.
    GPI: I’m afraid I can’t find that data.
    Gini: Europe wins.
    World Bank Wealth Estimates:
    France: $468024
    Germany: $496447
    US: $512612
    UK: $408753
    US Wins.
    Private Product Remaining: I don’t have the data, but the US is generally seen as having a smaller public sector, so I’d imagine the US does comparatively well here.

    The last 3 measure are similar in idea to the HDI, so again I’d imagine the data is rather mixed.

  144. #144 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    btw, the GPI seems to be the single metric most likely to capture what I’m talking about

  145. #145 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    but the US is generally seen as having a smaller public sector,

    because the military is financed by purple unicorns shitting rubies…

  146. #146 Gregory Greenwood
    April 17, 2010

    I should not have clicked on that link. The sheer mass of smug religiosity, crushing ignorance and white hot stupidity must surely be bad for my poor brain.

    When am I going to learn? Clicking on such links in order to laugh at the idiots fails to live up to expectations because I always end up more annoyed than amused.

    Still, the debte PZ was a part of sounds far more interesting, productive and generally sane. I wish I could have been there.

  147. #147 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    Recessions only measure how much money circulates through the economy, not how economically healthy and wealthy the people in that economy are. ic terms.

    A recession is where the GDP is declining. Money circulation is measured by the velocity of money.

  148. #148 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    The literature that is found in libraries in institutions of higher learning world world wide.

    You’re suppose to reference particular items. Simply saying it’s somewhere in the vast quantity of academic literature to ridiculous.

  149. #149 negentropyeater
    April 17, 2010

    I count about 15 European countries with higher public debt than the US.

    There are many flaws with looking at this.

    First, why look only at public debt, and not private debt (ie that of households and businesses)?

    Second, if a country like France has a public sector which represents 50% of GDP and has a public debt of 75% of GDP, that means it would take 1.5 years of Government revenues to pay back that debt. If a country like the USA has a public sector which represents 30% of GDP and has a public debt of 75% of GDP, that means it would take 2.5 years of Government revenues to pay back that debt.

    I know that many people (like Glenn Beck) keep looking at public debt as a % of GDP as a most important economic indicator, but it’s certainly not the whole story by any reasonable means.

    If you want to look at economic performance you should look at least at a set of variables, and not only GDP per capita and public debt, which are two parameters where the US isn’t doing too badly and are of course chosen by the American media to give the impression that its economic performance is better than that of its competitors.

    One should look at :

    Unemployement rate (and that means real unemployement including underemployed workers and those who have stopped looking for a job because it’s been too long, not just the cherry picked value by the US dept of labour)
    GDP per capita
    Distribution of wealth index, eg GINI
    Total debt (private + public) as a % of GDP
    Savings as a % of GDP
    Accumulated current account surpluses or deficits (foreign debt or surplus)
    Inflation and monetary growth
    And more qualitative indexes

    When one looks at all these parameters, it’s quite clear that the current economic performance of the USA is worse than that of several European countries (Germany, France, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Denmark).

    But to summarize, all developped economies are doing poorly right now.

  150. #150 Aaron Baker
    April 17, 2010

    RE #66:

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and ‘Tis Himself seems to be on to something here.

    I don’t know anything about Bob Avakian, beyond what ‘Tis Himself quoted. But as to the talk last night: when confronted with communist crimes, Taylor spoke of terrible mistakes.

    I think this is an improvement over efforts I’ve heard to shift the blame onto a particular person, typically Stalin (never mentioned by Taylor); but it still doesn’t convince. The Bolshevik regime was brutally authoritarian from its very beginnings (enough has been revealed about Lenin and Trostky that I don’t think any other conclusion is possible). I don’t think that authoritarianism was a mistake.

    Taylor (who fancies Mao) had high praise for China when he was in power. I imagine she’s right about the improvment in life expectancy and in the status of women–but that doesn’t mitigate Mao’s crimes for me.

  151. #151 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 17, 2010

    Purchasing Power Parity? Isn’t that the statistic that’s usually used to say “Most Americans can buy more with their wealth then most Europeans, even if they make less”? Calculated by looking at essentials of life (Priced towards the poorest consumers) and Per Capita GDP, despite the latter being near meaningless compared to the salaries of the poorest? Or am I mistaken on that one?

  152. #152 Walton
    April 17, 2010

    Still, the debte PZ was a part of sounds far more interesting, productive and generally sane. I wish I could have been there.

    Communists qualify as “sane” now?

    Apologists for authoritarianism and mass murder should not be our allies.

  153. #153 etladohm
    April 17, 2010

    I think there’s an easier way to get Mr. Gumby, assigning the “creationist” class to the blockquote tag. It’s not working on the preview, though it should work on the final post.

    This is a test.

  154. #154 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    A recession is where the GDP is declining.

    are you being this dense on purpose? I’m not talking about velocity of money, though in this particular recession I’m sure that’s declined, too, what with the severely curtailed consumer spending. I’m talking about the fact that measuring the amount of money that exchanges hands (not its frequency, as you imply) doesn’t measure the actual economic situation and standard of living of people, though they’re often correlated when measuring within a country (rather than comparing different countries).

  155. #155 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Simply saying it’s somewhere in the vast quantity of academic literature to ridiculous.

    So says the idjit who doesn’t reference anything. Like the loser he is… Which means you are an idjit. If you had even a small glimpse of it you would know and not show your ignorance. Your unevidenced troll attitude keeps shining through. What a loser…

  156. #156 Celtic_Evolution
    April 17, 2010

    I see Kirby is in this thread masturbating all over himself here as well…

    Lovely…

  157. #157 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    First, why look only at public debt, and not private debt (ie that of households and businesses)?

    Okay:

    France: $76,718
    Germany: $63,350
    Italy: $18,235
    US: $43,646
    UK: $150,673

    Only Italy is doing better.

  158. #158 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Apologists for authoritarianism and mass murder should not be our allies.

    says the conservative who thinks Reagan was a hero, militaries are peachy, and imperialist capitalism is the bestest thing evar.

  159. #159 SC OM
    April 17, 2010

    Apologists for authoritarianism and mass murder should not be our allies.

    *cough* Pinochet Friedman *cough*

  160. #160 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    I’m talking about the fact that measuring the amount of money that exchanges hands (not its frequency, as you imply) doesn’t measure the actual economic situation and standard of living of people, though they’re often correlated when measuring within a country

    The GDP measures how much is being bought and consumed, that is economic activity. Rather obvious way to measure economic health.

    So says the idjit who doesn’t reference anything.

    I’ve provided a number of links. You’ve not provided any.

  161. #161 etladohm
    April 17, 2010

    Test failed.

    The class atribute was eliminated from the final code… I guess it’s not allowed.

  162. #162 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    The GDP measures how much is being bought and consumed, that is economic activity. Rather obvious way to measure economic health.

    only if you pretend that there’s no such thing as “defensive” expenses, inefficient transactions, expenses detrimental to ones Living Standard, etc…

    just because money is changing hands, doesn’t mean the people involved in this exchange are well off. is this really that hard to comprehend?

  163. #163 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 17, 2010

    Did Walton revert back to “I’m a libertarian but I’m perfectly alright with the stupid shit right wing governments do as long as you let me have my money”? Saying he’s a Reagan owrship

  164. #164 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 17, 2010

    I’ve provided a number of links. You’ve not provided any.

    Links, unless to the peer reviewed literature, are meaningless. Creobots think links to AIG mean something. They don’t, as that is a religious based site…

    I’ll wait for ‘Tis to say if you are full of shit or not on economic issues. I trust his professionalism, not yours. On scientific issues, you are full of shit until you link to papers in the primary peer reviewed scientific literature. That is evidence. Anything else is opinion. And the burden is proof is always upon you if you go against the standards of science. Which has been your inane argument since your first post…

  165. #165 Vashti
    April 17, 2010

    Aaron Baker re: Bob Bossie:

    God was in everything and everyone

    This was the only moment last night that I really found Bob Bossie disturbing. Bad enough his god sounded like a parasite, but then Bob had to look around the room and say he thought it was in all of us. Made me want to get dewormed.

    Walton:

    I don’t know anything about Sunsara Taylor, or what kind of “communist” she is: there are plenty of small-c communists who are not Marxist-Leninists. But if she is an apologist for Lenin, then she is on the same moral level as an apologist for Hitler, and Professor Myers was entirely wrong to agree to serve on a panel with her.

    I disagree, I thought the Tentacled Overlord made it perfectly clear that he wasn’t endorsing Bob Bossie’s god or Sunsara Taylor’s revolution by his participation in the panel. And I was glad he participated as he was the panel member who gave the most practical suggestions for how to be moral and how to improve the world. When I was younger, I flirted quite a bit with a communist group and went to many similar events that lacked a Myers (but had plenty of activist priests). I guess I am still a bit of small-c communist, but most of the attraction for me was that they were people who were doing good things and trying to improve the world. If I had been exposed to Myers-like speakers during this time, I might have realized that my options weren’t limited to my parents’ fundamentalism or communist revolution.

    I only know Sunsara Taylor from the talk last night and thought she came across as sincere, but a bit naive about the realities of the revolution she is peddling. She did condemn some of the past atrocities committed in the name of communism but seemed to be saying something to the effect of “Don’t worry, we’ve got it all fixed now and we are so open-minded and willing to listen to criticism that nothing major will go wrong (and if you want to know the details, you need to go buy one of Avakian’s books at the back table)…”.

  166. #166 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 17, 2010

    *Saying he’s a Reagan Worshiper seems over the top.

    Stupid inability to edit.

  167. #167 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    On scientific issues, you are full of shit until you link to papers in the primary peer reviewed scientific literature.

    So wikipedia not good enough for you. Fine, wheres is your link to the peer-reviewed literature?

  168. #168 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    And the burden is proof is always upon you if you go against the standards of science.

    Which standard of science says the US is economically worse off than Europe?

  169. #169 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    I’ll wait for ‘Tis to say if you are full of shit or not on economic issues. I trust his professionalism, not yours.

    the links are correct, but they reveal an apparently shallow understanding of what economic health entails. it’s not just how much money is contained and moving within a particular nation.

    for one, there’s people in these nations for whom all this money that’s floating around has different and differing effects, depending on (external) variables. These real economic effects on real people can be meaningfully interpreted as being one measure of economic health. a mere measure of money doesn’t.

  170. #170 Gregory Greenwood
    April 17, 2010

    Walton @ 152;

    Communists qualify as “sane” now?

    Apologists for authoritarianism and mass murder should not be our allies.

    Wow, Walton, your brush certainly does broad strokes. I do not think that every self-described communist would appreciate being labelled as an apologist for ‘authoritarianism and mass murder’. Many people within the contemporary communist movements abhor the atrocities committed by most communist societies and the oppressive political and social environment that goes with it. One can believe in the ideals underpinning intellectual communism without waving about banners that are emblazoned with the words ‘Yay for the Goulags, go Stazi!’

    Also, if you re-read my post @ 146, I did not pass comment on the relative sanity or merit of any of the intellectual, ideological or theological positions espoused by any of the participants. I certainly did not advocate any kind of ‘alliance’ with any group, communist or otherwise. I merely observed that the debate PZ engaged in seemed to be more;

    …interesting, productive and generally sane.

    Than the inane ravings of a groups Faux News morons. This is not exactly a very high bar to aspire too. The same could be said of most pre-school playgroups, and even of the UK Houses of Parliament (I say this as a Brit who is perenially annoyed by the boorish behaviour of MPs).

    Please do not attempt to put words in my mouth. Real estate is at a premium in there.

  171. #171 Carlie
    April 17, 2010

    Now Kirby’s trying to school ‘Tis on economics? I’ve got the popcorn.

  172. #172 Celtic_Evolution
    April 17, 2010

    So wikipedia not good enough for you.

    Hee hee… that’s adorable…

  173. #173 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    Now Kirby’s trying to school ‘Tis on economics? I’ve got the popcorn.

    Actually, I followed what ‘Tis said. He noted a number of alternative measures, and I looked up the data as best I could. The only measure where the US is better than Europe is inequality.

  174. #174 negentropyeater
    April 17, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby #157,

    that’s not the total debt (private+public), but the external debt.

    For total debt (private+public) the figures are :

    USA 375% of GDP
    UK 470% of GDP
    France 300% of GDP
    Germany 275% of GDP

    (which shows you that private debt dwarfs Govt debt and is the real cause of this crisis, but of course the brain dead media keeps talking about Govt debt as if it’s the cancer that is killing us when it’s the historically enormous level of private debt that’s the culprit)

  175. #175 WowbaggerOM
    April 17, 2010

    Carlie wrote:

    Now Kirby’s trying to school ‘Tis on economics? I’ve got the popcorn.

    Well, he’s tried to school PZ on blog ownership, Nerd on science, Jadehawk on Europe and all of us on commenting so at least he’s consistent.

    I’d say the only left for him to do is scold Truth Machine for not being argumentative enough…

  176. #176 David Marjanovi?
    April 17, 2010

    Oh. Only the pulmonates are hermaphrodites? I feel cheated. ;-( Thanks for the information.

    Sure, but isn’t induction being used to get the theory of general relativity and theories of stellar structures?

    Induction is fine for generating ideas, just like dreams are. It’s just not capable of testing them.

    google scholar is your friend.

    Except that I don’t think our dear clueless accountant has any idea where to find Google Scholar.

    It’s like having lukewarm custard poured into one’s nose, mouth and both ears at the same time.

    X-D LOL!

    I think there’s an easier way to get Mr. Gumby, assigning the “creationist” class to the blockquote tag. It’s not working on the preview, though it should work on the final post.

    The class attribute is stripped off by the ScienceBorg software whenever a comment is submitted.

  177. #177 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    Now Kirby’s trying to school ‘Tis on economics? I’ve got the popcorn.

    he isn’t really, since ‘Tis is wisely staying out of the discussion ;-)

    nah, the idiot is just determined to keep believing that the U.S. is economically healthier than Europe just because it circulates more money through its economy. Living standards, crumbling or missing (physical as well as economic) infrastructure to buffer economic shocks and disruptions, rising personal (consumer) debt, and concentration of most of that money with a very small part of the population don’t matter. amount of $$$ is all that matters.

  178. #178 Meyrick Kirby
    April 17, 2010

    negentropyeater:

    External debt is essentially what a country owes to other countries. Sure a relevant measure of economic strength?

  179. #179 David Marjanovi?
    April 17, 2010

    and if you want to know the details, you need to go buy one of Avakian’s books at the back table

    The irony! :-D

    On Avakian’s scary authoritarianism, see comment 66. He is a Maoist after all.

    I’d say the only left for him to do is scold Truth Machine for not being argumentative enough…

    LOL! Looking forward to it!

  180. #180 David Marjanovi?
    April 17, 2010

    Sure a relevant measure of economic strength?

    Why?

    Can countries only borrow money from each other, for instance?

    Never mind the comment right above yours…

  181. #181 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 17, 2010

    wheres is your link to the peer-reviewed literature?

    I don’t have to supply links to the accepted scientific theories. If you think otherwise, put up or shut the fuck up. Welcome to science, where the burden of proof is upon you to show the accepted science is wrong. Nothing to date from the arrogant loser…

  182. #182 mikee
    April 17, 2010

    it’s interesting to see the different ways people are trying to calculate economic health/wealth. I think you are all doing more research that the commentator on the video who I suspect just pulled his data out of the air to try and lend some legitimacy to his spurious arguments. The scandanavian countries perform quite well economically and manage to have quite good health and education systems as well.
    I also noticed the contrasts between PZ’s discussion of how science and inform morality and Sam Harris’s talk on science and morality as mentioned in #6 and #10. I think PZ’s makes a lot of sense but will be interested to see what Sam comes up with in his next book.

  183. #183 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    gould1865: Which lead me to the question, how do humans as a group use happiness to make decisions that effect for the whole group?
    Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad:
    Ask abb3w. In any case, this is a blog with a high number of people trained in math/science. It’s not outrageous to assume some could make some sense out of it.

    It doesn’t require a “cabal”. Yes, there aren’t many individuals with the prior background to understand it at a first-pass reading. However, as Feynmaniac notes, there probably are some here. Furthermore, there also are people on the blog who have most of the background, and thus could wade through it after poking at Wikipedia; and people with very little of the background, but considerable curiosity and motivation, who might drag it to a local mathematics professor and say “what do I need to learn to make sense of this paper?” (There’s also lazy slackers who will simply point others to it, without even attempting to grasp the mathematics.)

    By increasing the exposure, I further can increase the chance that someone who is both exceptionally educated in math and who is unusually skilled verbally, and who can translate it into a format more readily understood by the average schmuck, or at least the average philosophy professor.

    gould1865: Same thing here, and “mathematics” means whatever he decides on the spot and his logic is not so hot, not even freshman, when he alleges a syllogism I never asserted.

    No; you merely made a bare assertion without bothering to justify it. Pardon me if I incorrectly identified the path of your reasoning. Perhaps you might care to give the proof of nonexistence?

    gould1865: You mean not able to persuade you!

    Myself, or other participants in the discussion. A few seemed to be persuaded, but far from a majority.

    gould1865: “A number” which you cavalierly evade with is surely a large number.

    At least two, probably not much more than a dozen. It’s certainly a small percentage. Feel free to use Google to search back through the archives of Fark.com to get a better count.

    skeptical scientist: Saying that a principle which is mathematically valid but impossible to carry out even in principle because it is, by its very nature, incomputable has “limits to its usefulness” is quite the understatement.

    Aha! It appears that indeed there is someone here who is adequately equipped.

    True. However, it still allows for some manner of greedy search (with the liability of imperfection there); the resulting search looks remarkably like “science”.

    skeptical scientist: The problem of induction, to Hume, is that there is no reason to expect that inductive reasoning should be valid: why should the universe have this property that its future events are predictable by past events. In Solomonoff/Minimal Description Length induction, one can prove that inductive reasoning holds, provided that the universe operates in a computable fashion (or, allowing for a nondeterministic universe, provided it evolves according to some computable probability measure.) See corollary 2 to theorem 11, and note particularly the requirement that mu be a recursive semimeasure.

    First, I’ll note that the theorem looks to extend to programs on any ordinal degree hypercomputer. This, however, still limits you to a countable infinity (as well as adding the expectation that you will routinely have to solve particular cases of the halting problem, which renders “limits to its usefulness” even more epic); you don’t have the full set of reals nor set of functions between reals.

    For the second, I’ll agree that yes, it must be taken as an explicit assumption that some countable ordinal suffices. Essentially, this is the assumption “there is some pattern”– which science generally doesn’t have a problem with.

    It is philosophically valid to consider the Refutation of that explicit assumption. Doing so, however, appears to leave one unable to tell a hawk from a handsaw, or decide whether your skull is filled with brain or with cauliflower.

    skeptical scientist: So it doesn’t solve the problem at all, because it still assumes facts about the universe that cannot be justified by reason alone.

    Ah; I wasn’t aware “justified by reason alone” was a requirement for “solution”. This merely reduces the problem to a more fundamental prior.

    Essentially, the assumption of “pattern” is justified either by Faith, or by the preference of being able to distinguish hawks and handsaws (which may or may not be considered “reason”). As such, it is taken directly as an Axiomatic prior, much as Hume takes the existence of sensory impressions.

    skeptical scientist: That said, I never really cared much about the supposed problem of induction.

    I consider the answer more interesting than the original question.

    David Marjanovi?: Unless you equate it with methodological naturalism, do we even use induction?

    Methodological naturalism is more or less an inference of this, yes. I’m not certain they’re equivalent, depending on how you define “nature”.

    David Marjanovi?: in other words, I’m deducing tomorrow’s sunrise from the theory of relativity, the conservations of energy and impulse, and the like.
    Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad: Sure, but isn’t induction being used to get the theory of general relativity and theories of stellar structures?

    “Ding! That is correct. Now, for 15 points?.”

    Red John: I’m glad that he posted it.

    Well, at least someone got some happiness out of it.
    But is that a good thing, or not? =)

  184. #184 negentropyeater
    April 17, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby #178,

    no, this is a largely irrelevant indicator.

    If you want to find out the change in how much a country owes to other countries net of what those countries owe to it, you need to look at the current account balance.

    This will show you a correct picture.

    As you can see, the US isn’t doing too good.

    You don’t seem to understand much about financial accounting, do you?

  185. #185 abb3w
    April 17, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby: Which lead me to the question, how do humans as a group use happiness to make decisions that effect for the whole group? Or maybe, how should humans use happiness to effect happiness for the whole group?

    The way they do can be loosely compared to a weighted voting scheme (with associated hazards), or a collective negotiation. Exact approaches vary widely.

    Asking what way they should use happiness presupposes that they should use happiness, which depends on what is meant by “should”, aka ought.

    While it yields fairly conventional results for the typical concerns, my personal bridge (defining what I think OUGHT be) is idiosyncratic enough that most others might not agree with my conclusions on the uses of happiness. Short answer: “rule of thumb when you don’t have time/resources for detailed analysis”.

    negentropyeater: The real difficult questions are:

    Actually, the difficult questions are:
    1) Should we only be concerned with humans, or should we be trying to find a more general principle that might also help us get along with any AI or Uplift species we create?
    2) What other questions have we missed?

    Jadehawk, OM: says the fuckwit who thinks economics aren’t a science.

    I could see a case being made for it actually being a form of engineering, if only because economics may presuppose the possible existence of some basis for an is-ought bridge.

  186. #186 maeiou
    April 17, 2010

    It was really great to see you face-to-face and hear you speak. My girlfriend follows your blog religiously. Sorry about the mic problems… =/

  187. #187 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    I could see a case being made for it actually being a form of engineering, if only because economics may presuppose the possible existence of some basis for an is-ought bridge.

    most social science does that, and so do fields like Environmental Science… I wouldn’t call any of them forms of engineering per-se, though certainly the principles studied are then meant to be used in practical applications, sure.

  188. #188 Cath the Canberra Cook
    April 17, 2010

    Check this out for “well-being”:
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25166.htm

  189. #189 Jadehawk, OM
    April 17, 2010

    You don’t seem to understand much about financial accounting, do you?

    ouch ;-)

  190. #190 Aaron Baker
    April 17, 2010

    Vashti @ 165:

    Fair enough. I didn’t mean to suggest that anyone here should like this God-inside-of-all-of-us idea. I just wanted to note that this mystical experience or whatever you wish to call it tends to be emotionally powerful for the people to whom it happens. It wasn’t powerful enough me, by the way, over the long term. I woke up the next to gnawing doubts, and they kept on gnawing till there wasn’t anything left.

  191. #191 David Marjanovi?
    April 17, 2010

    David Marjanovi?: Unless you equate it with methodological naturalism, do we even use induction?

    Methodological naturalism is more or less an inference of this, yes. I’m not certain they’re equivalent, depending on how you define “nature”.

    Sorry, I completely forgot that the same objection applies again: induction isn’t used to test methodological naturalism, observation is. We invent the hypothesis that the universe is consistent enough, derive predictions from it (like “this computer will not spontaneously float away”), and then test those predictions by observation…

    What have I overlooked? It’s 2:31 AM, I should have gone to bed long ago.

  192. #192 simondavis79
    April 17, 2010

    I didn’t attend the talk, so it’s good of PZ to give us the summary. However I’d like to point out a few things:

    Communism is a young philosophy compared to religion. However modern capitalism developed in the late 19th century with the formation of the first corporations as we know them, not long after Marx’s writings.

    As far as the ‘empirical problem’ of communist societies not faring well, I think that’s up for debate at the very least. If you look at Cuba before Fidel Castro, it was a deeply impoverished country even by the standards of the 1950′s with high infant mortality, illiteracy, low life expectancy and so on. Within 10-20 years all of those things had vastly improved if not eradicated, US embargo notwithstanding. Likewise Mao’s China after World War II managed to improve standards of living for hundreds of millions of people which is impressive considering China got no reparations even though they were technically on the winning side. Are these particular regimes good for things like democracy and freedom of speech? Hell no. But they did have some concrete accomplishments that should not be minimized.

  193. #193 jakoshadows
    April 17, 2010

    Very nice summary of the event. I enjoyed the panel greatly, and was more than slightly surprised at how uncatholic the priest was and thus how much I enjoyed what he had to say.
    On a side note, PZ, I saw that the panel was video taped. Where can we see that video?

  194. #194 Pierce R. Butler
    April 17, 2010

    Josh, Official SpokesGay @ # 76 Fr. Bob does, in fact, have some stereotypically gay mannerisms.

    And as a kid in a Catholic school he must’ve been stereotypical chickenhawk bait.

    In light of my # 47, how do you think Fr. Bob would score on whatever measures are used for abuse survivor mannerisms?

  195. #195 John Morales
    April 17, 2010

    simondavis79,

    Communism is a young philosophy compared to religion.

    Younger, perhaps; but neither religion nor Communism are philosophy, except in the loosest and most general sense. They are ideologies.

    (Religion is a way of imputing meaning to existence, Communism is a a political ideology, philosophy is thinking about the meaning of things.)

  196. #196 severalspeciesof
    April 17, 2010

    The priest reminded me of Winston Rothschild (the sewer guy with the hardhat) from the Red Green show: http://www.ilaugh.com/red_green_show/ask_experts/possum_lodge_boys

  197. #197 VermelhoRed
    April 17, 2010

    What about the deliberately engineered famine in Ukraine?

    We don’t know for sure it was engineered, and it happened during Stalin’s government, not Lenin’s.

    OK. Let’s blame Cuba’s poverty entirely on the US sanctions, for the sake of the argument. That leaves the lack of freedom of thought… and the lack of freedom to be homosexual.

    No, Cuba is not a nice place to live, no matter what you think about Western consumerism or whatever.

    So let’s not blame Cuban “poverty” on US sanctions. It’s a country without analphabets, without unemployment, without homeless people, with an excellent and universal healthcare. Where is this “poverty”? People don’t starve in Cuba, my friend.

    About free thought, I would say you always have free thought, but I think you mean “freedom of expression of your thoughts” or something like that. Like I said before, this is something every type of government limit when they don’t have the hegemony. You didn’t have “freedom of thought” in the US during the 50s, nor in Brazil during the military dictatorship. Cuba, as the communist government is getting more and more closer to hegemony, is getting more and more “freedom of thought.

    About homosexuality, in Cuba, people can get free sex-changing operations. I don’t see why you’re trying to claim that there you don’t have freedom to be homossexual.

    Dude, my father is from Titoist Yugoslavia. Even in the 1970s, if you didn’t shut up, you were in serious trouble.

    Hegemony is something that comes very slowly, USSR lasted 70-odd years and still reverted back to capitalism.

    You’re actually making excuses for it!?!

    Excuses?? I’m not making excuses! I’m claiming this happens to every form of government, ever. That’s not a “you did it too”, that’s a “every form of government has to do it, and does it, else Chaos”.

  198. #198 llewelly
    April 17, 2010

    So … does anyone have a link to an audio recording of the discussion between PZ, Sunsara Taylor, and Bob?

  199. #199 molto legato e sostenuto
    April 17, 2010

    Now now, Vermelho, the freedom to undergo surgery which mutilates you permanently and then to be subject to a lifetime of hormonal injections – which, apparently, many people pretend constitutes some form of gender change, as if such a thing were possible – does not equate to “freedom to be homosexual”.

    I think a more serious defense to the criticism of Cuba’s problem there would be that homophobia being built into the laws of the land is not innate in communism. But on the other side, I think the best objection to communism is that it requires people to behave in a fundamentally different way than they actually do, and when it doesn’t work, brute enforcement steps in.

  200. #200 skeptical scientist
    April 18, 2010

    abb3w, what I was taking issue with was your claim that mathematicians have solved the problem of induction. If you take the regularity of the universe as an axiomatic prior, then there is no problem of induction, and never was. But I don’t see how this particular mathematical formalism helps with the problem at all, since you still need certain regularity conditions to include that Solomonoff induction makes any useful predictions. If you like, it reduces the problem to another problem, but that doesn’t actually solve the problem.

    By the way, if anyone is curious about Solomonoff induction and would like to find out more about it, there’s an article at Less Wrong which discusses Solomonoff induction in the context of Occam’s razor. It’s a decent explanation, if a bit short.

  201. #201 timrowledge
    April 18, 2010

    I think the best objection to communism is that it requires people to behave in a fundamentally different way than they actually do, and when it doesn’t work, brute enforcement steps in.

    OK, not a totally stupid claim I suppose – but let’s try
    “I think the best objection to capitalism is that it requires people to behave in a fundamentally different way than they actually do, and when it doesn’t work, brute enforcement steps in.”
    Consider ACTA, DMCA, Patriot, on and on and on. Neither approach looks all that reasonable to me.
    Aphoristically[1]
    Capitalism – My buddies & I are rich, and should be in sole charge.
    Socialism – My buddies & I are in charge, and should be rich.
    Communism – My buddies & I are in charge and no one else can be rich
    Theocratism – God has told my buddies & I that only we can be in charge and rich

    [1]Aphorisms may be amusing and may even be relevant. This is not an offer for sale. Do not place over child’s mouth.

  202. #202 Vashti
    April 18, 2010

    Aaron Baker @190: Oh, I agree with you. Sorry that wasn’t clear, I was only commenting on how Bob Bossie’s “god is in everyone” statement made me feel last night. I thought he was quite sincere and that he actually meant god as a real entity (something he said right before this comment made me think it was clearly not a metaphor, but I can’t remember the actual words used). I think I was a little lulled by his liberal views and Boston accent (I can’t help it, Boston gives me warm fuzzy feelings), so I was taken aback by how much he seemed to mean that statement. (Also, it was the only time during the event that I felt he was pushing his religion on me.)

    Walton:

    Communists qualify as “sane” now?
    Apologists for authoritarianism and mass murder should not be our allies.

    This is a bizarrely giant leap from Gregory Greenwood’s comment that last night’s panel sounded more interesting, productive and sane than the faux news madness. Your therapy is clearly not finished, back to the endless thread with you! (Actually, aside from the screechy sound system and a few quirky questioners with their own agendas, the event was fairly interesting, possibly productive and generally sane .)

  203. #203 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 18, 2010

    @Pierce R. Butler, #194:

    In light of my # 47, how do you think Fr. Bob would score on whatever measures are used for abuse survivor mannerisms?

    I honestly don’t understand what you’re trying to say, so I’m not going there (wherever “there” might be).

  204. #204 https://me.yahoo.com/a/.PdEcikKkP_lDqJpDrUGsHFoie0Afkc-#a7221
    April 18, 2010

    Sunsara just blogged about this dialogue too. Check out her post “Great Fun With a Scientist and a Priest at U of Chicago”.

    As for all this nonsense about Sunsara and Avakian, she addressed that as well, in “Bob Avakian, the Science of Communism, and the Stupid Logic of Those Who Call It A Religion”, an earlier post that was a reply to comments on PZ’s announcement of this event. So instead of dishonestly mischaracterizing Sunsara’s and Avakian’s ideas, engage with what she’s actually said. From “Bob Avakian, the Science of Communism, and the Stupid Logic of Those Who Call It A Religion,”

    In evaluating whether something is a religion or science, the criteria is NOT whether or not the works and role of key individuals are recognized and upheld. The criteria is to evaluate whether that person and their body of work (their premises, their claims, their method and their approach to engaging the world) are based in reality and are refined and developed (and at times, ruptured and resynthesized) by a further engagement with reality ? or whether their claims are rooted instead in mythology and then stubbornly clung to in the face of (and in conflict with) discoveries about reality. The former is science (and yes, communism ? understood and practiced correctly ? IS a science) and the latter is religion.

    –Ray Geming

  205. #205 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    wouldn’t it be cool if we stopped applying labels of mental illness to ideas we strongly disagree with

  206. #206 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Did Walton revert back to “I’m a libertarian but I’m perfectly alright with the stupid shit right wing governments do as long as you let me have my money”? Saying he’s a Reagan owrship

    Er, what? How did you get that from anything I said? I’m not OK with the stupid shit right-wing governments do. I’m certainly not OK with the Bush administration arbitrarily detaining and torturing people in the name of the “war on terror”. Or with bans on gay marriage. Or with wiretapping and government surveillance. I speak out against the erosion of civil liberties whether it’s the fault of a right-wing or a left-wing government.

    But I wasn’t saying anything on this thread about right-wing government. The only post I made that had anything to do with right-wingers was a post observing the stupidity of Fox News. Rather, in the rest of the thread, I was pointing out the moral bankruptcy of Marxist-Leninist apologists. I don’t know what you think that has to do with Reagan. One doesn’t have to be a right-winger to oppose Leninism; it’s perfectly possible to deplore both left-wing and right-wing authoritarianism.

  207. #207 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Jadehawk,

    says the conservative who thinks Reagan was a hero, militaries are peachy, and imperialist capitalism is the bestest thing evar.

    Tu quoque. I’m not going to get bogged down in a discussion of capitalism, as it’s not relevant, except to say that I don’t think Reagan was a “hero”.

    But even presupposing that capitalism is a bad thing, that doesn’t make Marxism-Leninism better. As I observed above, there are plenty of socialists and anarcho-communists who deplore Marxism-Leninism as much as I do. Mass murder and authoritarian government are wrong, no matter what ideology is used to justify them and what social objectives they are meant to serve.

    And, SC: I’m not an apologist for Pinochet. He was an authoritarian and a mass-murderer too, and was also deplorable. Like I said, I believe in speaking out against authoritarianism both of the left and right.

  208. #208 GeorgeFromNY
    April 18, 2010

    “We don’t know for sure it was engineered, and it happened during Stalin’s government, not Lenin’s. (VRed)”

    This is the exact intellectual and moral equivalent of being a Holocaust Denier. Well done, comrade.

    “So let’s not blame Cuban “poverty” on US sanctions. It’s a country without analphabets, without unemployment, without homeless people, with an excellent and universal healthcare. Where is this “poverty”? People don’t starve in Cuba, my friend. (VRed)”

    People also don’t starve in prison. And hey, nobody’s homeless there either. Or unemployed.

    And you get free healthcare. Sounds pretty good, eh?

    Of course, it’s still… you know… a prison. But since when has that ever bothered a good revolutionary?

  209. #209 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    “We don’t know for sure it was engineered, and it happened during Stalin’s government, not Lenin’s. (VRed)”

    This is the exact intellectual and moral equivalent of being a Holocaust Denier. Well done, comrade.

    QFT.

  210. #210 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    Walton, way to miss the point.

    do you consider people who like and defend Reagan insane?
    do you consider people who like and defend Friedman insane?

    if not, then you’re being a hypocrite.

  211. #211 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Walton, way to miss the point.

    do you consider people who like and defend Reagan insane?
    do you consider people who like and defend Friedman insane?

    strange gods is correct that I probably shouldn’t have talked about “sane” and “insane”. But comparing Reagan to Lenin is an entirely false moral equivalence. That’s not to suggest that Reagan was some sort of hero – he did plenty of damn stupid things – but he didn’t institute a programme of mass murder and state terror in order to destroy his political opponents and “class enemies”.

  212. #212 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    And yes, before anyone brings it up, I do know all about the Nicaraguan contras and so on. But it doesn’t make Reagan comparable to Lenin.

  213. #213 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    But it doesn’t make Reagan comparable to Lenin.

    if it helps you sleep at night, you’re welcome to believe that.

    the whole point being that you can’t claim that being a communist makes one insane (metaphorically or literally) and refuse the same for neocons and friedmanite libertarians. these are all ideologies that have led to mass murder and continued suffering. or you could stop vilifying communists as insane.

  214. #214 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    contra
    de Klerk
    Saddam
    Pinochet
    mujahideen

  215. #215 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    the whole point being that you can’t claim that being a communist makes one insane (metaphorically or literally) and refuse the same for neocons and friedmanite libertarians. these are all ideologies that have led to mass murder and continued suffering. or you could stop vilifying communists as insane.

    How many times do I have to point out that Mao and Stalin both murdered substantially more people than Hitler? And don’t repeat the discredited myth that Stalin somehow twisted the true course of Leninism, or that Trotsky would have been any better. They were all murderers; the Bolsheviks started using mass violence and terror as soon as they achieved power. Leninism is an ideology of blood.

    Would you serve on a panel with an apologist for Nazism? I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t serve on a panel with an apologist for Leninism, either.

    You tell me what the moral difference is between Nazism and Leninism. Is it more acceptable to murder people in the name of a left-wing ideology than in the name of a right-wing ideology? Because from where I’m standing, they look just as dead either way.

  216. #216 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    Sayeeda Warsi

  217. #217 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    They were all murderers; the Bolsheviks started using mass violence and terror as soon as they achieved power.

    as opposed to Friedmann’s Chilean pets, who were all rainbows and glitter dust.

    Are Friedmanite libertarians insane?

  218. #218 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    …and refuse the same for… friedmanite libertarians. these are all ideologies that have led to mass murder and continued suffering.

    Saying that “Friedmanite libertarians” are to blame for Pinochet, and therefore that libertarians are bad, is as absurd as saying that “socialists” are to blame for Lenin and therefore that socialists are bad.

    There are plenty of socialists – democratic socialists, communitarian anarchists, and so on – who are not Leninists and who deplore Leninism as much as I do. I might disagree with strange gods, Knockgoats and SC on many things, but I wouldn’t accuse any of them of being apologists for murder. You know this: so why do you not accept that the same distinctions exist among other ideologies? I know lots of hardcore libertarians, and all of them deplore Pinochet and other right-wing authoritarian regimes as much as you and I do.

    Authoritarianism and mass murder are bad whoever commits them, and whatever ideology is used as a pretext for justifying them, whether left-wing or right-wing. I would not serve on a panel with anyone who thinks that murdering and terrorising millions of people to further an ideology is OK.

  219. #219 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit walton. Friedman and the Chicago Boys were directly responsible for what happened in Chile. They were actively involved in it.

    I would not serve on a panel with anyone who thinks that murdering and terrorising millions of people to further an ideology is OK.

    splendid. and now show where modern communists specifically advocate this or other actions equal to the neoconish love of war and the Friedmanite support for right-wing dictatorships and violent suppression of left-wing resistance does.

  220. #220 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    and now show where modern communists specifically advocate this

    VermelhoRed above has provided some great examples. Apparently, as long as we all shut up and obey orders until the revolution has achieved hegemony, we will be able to escape being murdered or sent to detention camps. And he was also engaging in a revisionist historical exercise which, as someone else pointed out above, is exactly morally and intellectually equivalent to Holocaust-denial.

    As I said, I don’t know anything about Sunsara Taylor or what kind of communist she is. I have repeatedly acknowledged that there are small-c communists who are not Leninists. So I don’t know whether Professor Myers was wrong to serve on a panel with her; but if she is an apologist for Lenin, then he certainly was wrong to do so, IMO.

  221. #221 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    Would you serve on a panel with an apologist for Nazism? I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t serve on a panel with an apologist for Leninism, either.

    Did you get on Sayeeda Warsi’s blog and denounce her?

  222. #222 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    I should add that I would not serve on a panel with someone who defended Pinochet. Pinochet was an authoritarian paranoid wingnut and a mass-murderer. I am no defender of Pinochet, and I have honestly never met anyone who is. He’s simply irrelevant to this discussion.

    And by going on about “Friedmanite libertarians”, you’re implying some sort of cult of personality, which doesn’t exist. Libertarians, like atheists, don’t have “leaders”. Friedman was wrong to work with the Pinochet regime, and plenty of libertarians, including those who otherwise agree with Friedman’s economic outlook, will gladly say so. Talking about “Friedmanite libertarians”, and implying that libertarianism as a whole is responsible for Milton Friedman’s personal failings, is like talking about “Dawkinsite atheists” and acting as though all hardcore atheists agree unquestioningly on everything with Richard Dawkins – which is, indeed, a dishonest rhetorical trick that religious opponents of atheism sometimes use.

  223. #223 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    yes, VermelhoRed is a dangerous loon. he as an individual has shown himself to be so.

    this has shit-all to do with your general condemnation of communists, and those willing to talk to them. are you willing to retract it fully?

  224. #224 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Did you get on Sayeeda Warsi’s blog and denounce her?

    What the hell has Sayeeda Warsi got to do with anything?

    The only time I’d ever even heard of her was when she represented the Conservatives on BBC Question Time. I just looked her up on Wikipedia to see what you were talking about, and I assume you’re referring to the homophobic leaflets used in the 2005 election campaign. In answer: no, I didn’t denounce her for that, for the simple reason that I didn’t know about it until thirty seconds ago. It wasn’t in my local area and I heard nothing about it at the time.

  225. #225 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    Libertarians, like atheists, don’t have “leaders”.

    That’s why they call it the Ron Paul Revolution.

  226. #226 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    And by going on about “Friedmanite libertarians”, you’re implying some sort of cult of personality

    yeah right.

    anyway, I was implicating the whole capital L libertarianism ideology created and used by him, the same way you’re tarring all capital C communism with a leninist/stalinist brush. if you don’t like this approach, I suggest you stop using it on those you dislike, yourself.

  227. #227 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    this has shit-all to do with your general condemnation of communists, and those willing to talk to them. are you willing to retract it fully?

    No. I’ve said nothing that I need to retract.

    I have been clear from the start that not all “communists” are Marxist-Leninists. But I do unequivocally condemn Marxist-Leninists, and those willing to talk to them. Anyone who would seriously defend Lenin and the Bolsheviks is no better than someone who would seriously defend Hitler and the Nazis.

    I don’t condemn small-c communists who are not Marxist-Leninists, such as anarcho-communists. I made this absolutely clear from the start of this discussion. I also don’t know what kind of communist Sunsara Taylor is.

  228. #228 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    What the hell has Sayeeda Warsi got to do with anything?

    Well, I saw her on this BBC program. Let me tell you about it.

    The only time I’d ever even heard of her was when she represented the Conservatives on BBC Question Time.

    How do I facepalm?

    Would you serve on a panel with an apologist for Nazism? I wouldn’t.

  229. #229 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    No. I’ve said nothing that I need to retract.

    O RLY…

    Still, the debte PZ was a part of sounds far more interesting, productive and generally sane. I wish I could have been there.

    Communists qualify as “sane” now?

    Apologists for authoritarianism and mass murder should not be our allies.

    you were saying?

  230. #230 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    1 “Marxist-Leninist” is a propaganda term of Leninists.

  231. #231 Meyrick Kirby
    April 18, 2010

    You don’t seem to understand much about financial accounting, do you?

    You forgot to weight those figures. Current account has to measured by capita or GDP or similar. My accounting is better than yours.

  232. #232 OnePumpChump
    April 18, 2010

    I’m going to pray that health care costs come down on their own so that I can afford it.

  233. #233 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    Walton said:

    I am no defender of Pinochet, and I have honestly never met anyone who is.

    Maybe not, but you are a member of a political party that had senior members who did defend Pinochet, and who even went to have tea with him.

  234. #234 Meyrick Kirby
    April 18, 2010

    This place is a toilet bowl. To abb3w thank you for your reply. Otherwise adios.

  235. #235 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    The only time I’d ever even heard of her was when she represented the Conservatives on BBC Question Time.

    You surprise me sometimes Walton. For a political animal who is a member of the conservative party you sometimes show a surprising level of ignorance about who else is in the party.

  236. #236 Rorschach
    April 18, 2010

    Otherwise adios.

    Good riddance.

  237. #237 WowbaggerOM
    April 18, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby wrote:

    This place is a toilet bowl. To abb3w thank you for your reply. Otherwise adios.

    Oh, what a shame. I’d say I was sorry we weren’t up to your exacting high standards, but that’d be a blatant lie. So, instead I’ll say this: cram it, with walnuts – you fucking pissant clown shoe.

  238. #238 negentropyeater
    April 18, 2010

    Meyrick Kirby ,

    You forgot to weight those figures. Current account has to measured by capita or GDP or similar. My accounting is better than yours.

    No, your accounting is really bad. You confuse external debt with current account deficit and total debt, you’ve consistently mistook the important parameters for irrelevant ones…

    Even as a % of GDP, the US current account deficit is huge, the only European countries which fare worst are Spain and Greece. Overall, the European Union has a current account surplus, compared with 7% deficit for the USA in 2009.

    If you want to keep thinking that the USA does better than the European Union in economic terms, you can keep twisting the data and using irrelevant parameters, but I’m not sure what purpose this serves.

  239. #239 windy
    April 18, 2010

    “We don’t know for sure it was engineered, and it happened during Stalin’s government, not Lenin’s. (VRed)”
    This is the exact intellectual and moral equivalent of being a Holocaust Denier.

    Only in part, the second part is strictly speaking correct. Since Lenin was responsible for plenty of other atrocities I don’t see the problem with admitting that he wasn’t responsible for the Ukrainian famine.

    And apparently many academics do think that the famine itself may not have been deliberately engineered but that Stalin took advantage of it, refusing to help and/or abetting it.

    VRed is guilty of denialism but I don’t think this statement is the best example of it, he did admit (very euphemistically) that “human losses” happened under Stalin’s government. His argument is more like saying that Nazis were alright before the Wannsee conference.

  240. #240 maureen.brian#b5c92
    April 18, 2010

    Right, Walton, if on or after 7 May we have a conservative government and as soon as your exams are finished, we will be expecting a blow-by-blow account of the ways in which freedom* is enhanced by the very fact that they are in office.

    I see that Matt Penfold is around – hiya, Matt – and am pretty confident that he will be watching for the same sort of signals as I.

    * I will accept any rational definition of freedom, provided that it involves freedom to act and not simply freedom in principle and that this new freedom is as available to the weak as to the strong – in whatever dimension of life we happen to be discussing at the time.

    —–

    And, by the way, on the day after your last exam and before you sink into a well-justified stupour just raise one of those glasses for my 68th birthday, if you would be so kind.

  241. #241 windy
    April 18, 2010

    I would not serve on a panel with anyone who thinks that murdering and terrorising millions of people to further an ideology is OK.

    Would you serve on a panel with Christopher Hitchens?

  242. #242 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    I see that Matt Penfold is around – hiya, Matt – and am pretty confident that he will be watching for the same sort of signals as I.

    Morning Maureen.

    And rest assured, I will be watching the new Government like a hawk regardless of whether it is Conservative or not.

    However I have my doubts over the Tories, since they have said they will repeal the Human Rights Act. This will mean anyone wanting to get legal protection from the Human Rights Act will have to take their appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a process which takes years. Not exactly an improvement for human rights in the UK.

  243. #243 defides
    April 18, 2010

    There are 27 countries in the European Union alone; there are at least a further 10 which have not joined.

    The EU’s population is over 500 million. I think we can safely assume that there’s another 50 million outside. So that’s 550 million people, in 37 countries.

    It just beggars belief that people who were at school long enough to learn to read and write are nevertheless stupid enough to believe that you can generalise about 37 countries and a population twice the size of the US’ as if it was a single entity. It’s even more astonishing that in the same country that landed on the moon and invented the personal computer, such people are considered suitable as the anchors of network television programmes.

  244. #244 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    However I have my doubts over the Tories, since they have said they will repeal the Human Rights Act. This will mean anyone wanting to get legal protection from the Human Rights Act will have to take their appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a process which takes years. Not exactly an improvement for human rights in the UK.

    A legal nitpick: one doesn’t technically “appeal” to the European Court of Human Rights. It isn’t part of the national court system and doesn’t, as such, review the decisions of national courts. Rather, if your rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have been violated by a state party to the Convention, you can bring proceedings against that state before the Court. Sometimes this is used after a person loses his or her case before the national courts and argues that his or her Convention rights have been violated, so the media reports it as an “appeal to Europe”; but this is incorrect stricto sensu. /pedant

    But I agree with you that repealing the HRA would be a really, really bad idea. I can pledge right now that if a Conservative government repeals the HRA, and does not replace it with an equally effective instrument, I will no longer vote Conservative. I believe in the role of the judiciary in defending individual liberties against the tyranny of the majority, and the HRA is currently the best tool in their arsenal, in the UK constitutional order, to achieve this.

    Ideally I’d like to see a codified written constitution for the UK with an entrenched Bill of Rights, which would give the judiciary power to strike down primary legislation incompatible with fundamental rights (something they cannot currently do even under the HRA). But I don’t think there’s any political will at present for this to happen.

  245. #245 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Jadehawk @#229: I spelt Communist in that post with a capital “C”. This may have been imprecise – perhaps I should have specified Leninists – but I thought it was reasonably clear what kind of “Communist” I was talking about. I stand by my statement that apologists for Leninism are morally equivalent to apologists for Nazism; and that if one would not engage in dialogue with a Holocaust-denier, then one should not do so with a Leninist.

    I have said about twenty times now that I have no problem with anarcho-communists or many other kinds of small-c “communist”; I think they’re wrong, but they’re not authoritarians or apologists for mass murder.

  246. #246 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    I give up. you don’t want to see the point. whatever.

  247. #247 SC OM
    April 18, 2010

    That’s not to suggest that Reagan was some sort of hero – he did plenty of damn stupid things – but he didn’t institute a programme of mass murder and state terror in order to destroy his political opponents and “class enemies”.

    Latin America has no history.

    Friedman, Hayek, and the Catholic Church (among many others) were and have been accomplices to and apologists for terror and mass murder in furthering ideological ends.

    authoritarians or apologists for mass murder

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/12/27/how-britain-denies-its-holocausts/

    (Roberts, according to his site, “chaired the Conservative Party’s Advisory Panel on the Teaching of History in Schools in 2005.” Would you sit on a panel with him? Talk to him?)

  248. #248 AnthonyK
    April 18, 2010

    I can pledge right now that if a Conservative government repeals the HRA, and does not replace it with an equally effective instrument, I will no longer vote Conservative

    Phew! We’re safe then!

    (Walton, old chap, you really do need to fit a pomposity filter to your computer: I think one of them’s called Fogeybegone :P)

    I doubt, in practice, whether the Tories really would repeal the HRA – it’s one of those things they like to toss out to their more right-wing members, who see this as European meddling and namby-pamby liberalism gone mad – but in practice it would surely be so complicated to do, make little real difference if it weren’t there, and give their opponents the reasonable argument that they didn’t care about human rights. I think, in short, that this is a sop to the anti political-correctness brigade.

    But then what do I care: I won’t vote for them – even though David Cameron seems decent enough, they’re still the party of and for the rich, they mostly loathe Europe, and they gave us Margaret Thatcher (shudder).

  249. #249 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 18, 2010

    my 68th birthday

    Do people live that long? Rocks don’t live that long.*

    *Words written less than three weeks after my 62nd birthday.

  250. #250 echidna
    April 18, 2010

    I would say that Nazism and Communism (as per above discussion) have this in common – each of them were out-of-control reactions to oppression to the point of starvation that led people to behave like cornered animals. Each did more harm than good. Right- or left-wing ideologies are less important than the fact that the populations were vulnerable to power-grabbing sociopaths to start off with.

  251. #251 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    echidna, that describes the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror pretty well, too, I think :-)

    people tend to lose their collective minds when they’re finally driven to the breaking point and revolt.

  252. #252 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    SC,

    As an honest, and (despite your insinuations in the past) reasonably historically-literate Briton, I will be the first to admit that we have some very, very ugly and barbaric patches in British history. Britain traded thousands of slaves, for a start, until the (then-highly controversial) banning of the slave trade. The corrupt East India Company massacred those who got in its way, in the name of making quick profits. Later British economic policy in India was aimed carefully at keeping Britain rich and India poor, importing raw cotton from India to the Lancashire cotton mills and then exporting the cotton cloth back to India, and preventing India from building up its own manufacturing industries. And anyone with even the most basic knowledge of Indian history knows about the Amritsar Massacre. Not to mention the hierarchies of arbitrary racial segregation which existed in British colonies. Anyone who is remotely honest will freely admit that the later instability, conflict and suffering, both in the Indian subcontinent and in East Africa, can be traced, to a substantial degree, to the legacy of colonialism.

    So I am not some sort of British chauvinist. British history, like that of most other countries, has plenty to be ashamed of. And if I knew anyone who advocated reinstituting the British Empire and reconquering former colonies, I would think they were a total loon, and would have no more regard for them than I have for Leninists. As for Roberts, I don’t know enough about him or his personal views to make any kind of judgment.

  253. #253 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    That’s not to suggest that Reagan was some sort of hero – he did plenty of damn stupid things – but he didn’t institute a programme of mass murder and state terror in order to destroy his political opponents and “class enemies”.

    Walton, Jeane Kirkpatrick.

    ‘Nuff said I think.

  254. #254 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    I doubt, in practice, whether the Tories really would repeal the HRA – it’s one of those things they like to toss out to their more right-wing members, who see this as European meddling and namby-pamby liberalism gone mad – but in practice it would surely be so complicated to do, make little real difference if it weren’t there, and give their opponents the reasonable argument that they didn’t care about human rights. I think, in short, that this is a sop to the anti political-correctness brigade.

    I agree. That’s why I’m prepared to vote Conservative. If I thought they were actually going to repeal the HRA, I would not vote for them.

    But it has to be said, New Labour has the worst record on civil liberties of any government since the Second World War. The Conservatives at least pay lip-service to individual liberties; I don’t hold out much hope of substantial progress in that area, but at least they are likely to be marginally less authoritarian than Labour.

  255. #255 Rorschach
    April 18, 2010

    I would say that Nazism and Communism (as per above discussion) have this in common – each of them were out-of-control reactions to oppression

    Who was oppressing the Germans in the 1930s??
    If you want to argue that this was some sort of chain reaction brought on by the whole post-WW 1 Versailles thing, then yes you have a point, as far as Germany goes, but it falls short for pre-1917 Russia.

  256. #256 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    Repeal of the HRA is a manifesto commitment for the Conservatives.

  257. #257 echidna
    April 18, 2010

    Jadehawk@251: Thanks, nice to see that you actually understood my not-so-well-expressed thought.

  258. #258 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    If you want to argue that this was some sort of chain reaction brought on by the whole post-WW 1 Versailles thing, then yes you have a point, as far as Germany goes, but it falls short for pre-1917 Russia.

    eh?

    they were both oppressed, in completely different ways. The Germans suffered from external oppression as a consequence of Versailles; the Russians suffered internal oppression by the Czarist system. in both instances, the end result was snapping and violent clusterfuckiness.

  259. #259 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    …they mostly loathe Europe…

    I wish you would stop using lazy language like this to try and caricature your opponents as xenophobes. There is a difference between being opposed to the European Union, and “loathing Europe”.

    I hate xenophobia and nationalism. I strongly support the UN, the Council of Europe, and multi-national co-operation in general. I support a liberal, open-borders policy on immigration. I advocate free international trade. I do not “loathe Europe” in any way.

    I am, however, opposed to the trade policies of the European Union, because – through a bewildering range of subsidies, tariffs, quotas and so on – they prop up wealthy European agri-business while hurting vulnerable producers in the developing world. The amount of money wasted on the iniquitous Common Agricultural Policy, and the sheer amount of corruption and graft, is mind-boggling. It is intellectually dishonest to accuse me of “loathing Europe”, and imply that I’m some sort of xenophobe, merely because I’m critical of the EU.

  260. #260 SC OM
    April 18, 2010

    Walton, you said that you have nothing but condemnation for mass murderers or their supporters or apologists. Several examples have been put to you of people who are such and of whom you have spoken positively in the past. You said “I would not serve on a panel with anyone who thinks that murdering and terrorising millions of people to further an ideology is OK.” So Jadehawk’s response wasn’t a tu quoque but a request for the hypocrisy to cease. Either you condemn people who do this or you don’t.

    And anyone with even the most basic knowledge of Indian history knows about the Amritsar Massacre.

    Which Roberts evidently supports:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-dark-side-of-andrew-roberts-1765229.html

    If he is an apologist for British imperialism, including massacres, camps, and genocidal policies (I’ll note again that people rarely seem to pay attention to the first part of Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism), would you talk or serve on a panel with him? Will you condemn his views?

  261. #261 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Which Roberts evidently supports:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-dark-side-of-andrew-roberts-1765229.html

    If he is an apologist for British imperialism, including massacres, camps, and genocidal policies (I’ll note again that people rarely seem to pay attention to the first part of Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism), would you talk or serve on a panel with him? Will you condemn his views?

    As I said, I didn’t know anything about Roberts, not having heard of him before. But in light of the above, it seems like he is a far-right loon. And yes, I condemn his views. Only a morally bankrupt person could argue that the Amritsar Massacre was anything other than an atrocity.

    There is, it has to be said, a certain amount of entrenched cultural chauvinism in Britain. The older generation grew up with Cold War-era propaganda, self-congratulatory films about “Blighty” defeating the Germans, and historical education that paid little attention to the darker side of British history. But we do need to move on from this today, and accept that – while there are plenty of great achievements in our history, from the banning of the slave trade to the Battle of Britain – there is also much that was brutal, barbaric, and motivated by bigotry or the desire for profit. The British people have not yet really acknowledged or come to terms with this.

  262. #262 AnthonyK
    April 18, 2010

    It wasn’t intended to be personal, Walton.
    However, the Tories are very often “Euro-sceptic” (not all, however, some are very pro-Europe: it is now, and has been for years, a rift in the Tory party – as you well know.)
    Xenophobia – arguably, yes. I don’t think that the term is quite as perjorative as you think – but these folks, and especially UKIP, hate our involvment with Europe, resent the “domination” of Britain by “unelected” bodies, and would withdraw from Europe as soon as possible. This also spills over into the issue of immigration.
    Personally, I think that the problems afflicting Britain at the moment have nothing to do with our membership of the EC, and I personally like the idea of being politically part of Europe, which corresponds wholly to our geographical status, and the realities of trade and commerce.
    (And it protects our human rights – while also giving us influence for the things we consider important)
    And did you forget the repulsive views of some of the parties the Tories are allied with in the European Parliament – holocaust deniers, anti-Semites and homophobes?

  263. #263 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    (And it protects our human rights – while also giving us influence for the things we consider important)

    Please, please, please bear in mind – this being something that a lot of people don’t understand – that the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into British law by the Human Rights Act 1998, is nothing to do with the EU. It’s a completely separate international treaty, administered by the Council of Europe, which is a separate international organisation with many more members than the EU. And the European Court of Human Rights should not be confused with the European Court of Justice. They are separate institutions. If we left the EU, we would still remain part of the Council of Europe and would still be bound by the ECHR.

    Confusingly, the EU now has its own “Charter of Fundamental Rights” – which has existed since 2000 as a non-binding document, but has now been incorporated into the EU legal order by the Treaty of Lisbon. But this Charter applies only to acts of the EU institutions themselves, and to acts of the Member States when they are implementing EU law.

  264. #264 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    As I said, I didn’t know anything about Roberts, not having heard of him before. But in light of the above, it seems like he is a far-right loon. And yes, I condemn his views. Only a morally bankrupt person could argue that the Amritsar Massacre was anything other than an atrocity.

    Walton, you are clearly very far from being either stupid or ignorant, yet twice today you have surprised me with a display of ignorance.

    You really had never heard of Andrew Roberts ? He is a pretty well know historian, and whilst I do not often agree with his take on things, he has a decent standard of scholarship most of the time.

  265. #265 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    Please, please, please bear in mind – this being something that a lot of people don’t understand – that the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into British law by the Human Rights Act 1998, is nothing to do with the EU. It’s a completely separate international treaty, administered by the Council of Europe, which is a separate international organisation with many more members than the EU. And the European Court of Human Rights should not be confused with the European Court of Justice. They are separate institutions. If we left the EU, we would still remain part of the Council of Europe and would still be bound by the ECHR.

    I know what you are trying to say with this, but EU membership requires the member state to be a signatory of the ECHR and to afford its citizens the rights entailed within it. If the UK was to decide to withdraw as a signatory of the ECHR it would also cease to belong to the EU.

  266. #266 SC OM
    April 18, 2010
  267. #267 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    Walton,
    You certainly don’t give any sign of being a xenophobe, but to say you are “critical of the EU” is like saying Stalin was critical of Trotsky (or indeed vice versa). You have expressed your conviction it should be destroyed (not just that the UK should leave); and your purported grounds are the CAP, and corruption. Certainly both are considerable evils, but you have never made clear why unfair protectionism and corruption would disappear from Europe if the EU did, nor why the same kind of protectionism has not led you to call for the dissolution of the USA.

    The Germans suffered from external oppression as a consequence of Versailles

    Some Germans did – but Versailles looks remarkably generous when compared with Brest-Litovsk, which Imperial Germany imposed on the Bolsheviks just a year before. The Versailles reparations demand was vindictive and stupid (the German responses of inflating the debt away and borrowing to pay it off were inevitable), but the territorial settlement was reasonable, Weimar Germany was swiftly readmitted into international institutions (in contrast to Soviet Russia), and the wisdom of the armaments restrictions and the ban on Anschluss with Austria is evident in what happened once they were successfully defied. It was the Great Depression, not Versailles, that brought the Nazis to power.

  268. #268 scooterKPFT
    April 18, 2010

    That reminds me

    A priest, an Irishman and a pedophile walk into a bar.

    The bartender shouts, “O’Mally, I told you to stay out here!”

  269. #269 Rorschach
    April 18, 2010

    Nick, any plans for coming over for the Copenhagen atheist convention in June??

  270. #270 David Marjanovi?
    April 18, 2010

    Mao’s China after World War II managed to improve standards of living for hundreds of millions of people which is impressive considering China got no reparations even though they were technically on the winning side

    You have overlooked the Great Leap Forward Off The Cliff. That makes about 50 million corpses.

    Then came the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution…

    Then Mao died.

    And then Deng Xiaoping turned away from the economic parts of communism. That’s when the standard of living started improving, as it is still doing. Starting with Deng, communism is being reduced to more and more vague ideological proclamations by a party that rules basically in a fascist way*, with more and more emphasis on Confucianism (especially the part that says “obey the authorities”) and nationalism.

    Less communism, fewer corpses by the tens of millions.

    How is it possible that you didn’t know this?

    * This insight isn’t original to me. Some Chinese dissident or other first wrote it down 15 years ago or so.

    Excuses?? I’m not making excuses! I’m claiming this happens to every form of government, ever. That’s not a “you did it too”, that’s a “every form of government has to do it, and does it, else Chaos”.

    “has to do it [...] else chaos”, let alone Big-C “Chaos”, is an excuse. It’s an old excuse, too ? every oppressive regime ever has used it.

    Where’s the oppression over here in Austria, huh? Where are the killings in this country that abolished the death penalty in 1968 (decades after it had been used the last time)?

    It just doesn’t happen “to every form of government, ever”. Again, how is it possible you didn’t know this? Where’s the shame on your part?

    It’s a country without analphabets, without unemployment, without homeless people, with an excellent and universal healthcare. Where is this “poverty”? People don’t starve in Cuba, my friend.

    Do you really define “poverty” as “not starving”?

    “Without unemployment” my ass. Every single communist country so far has claimed it, and they were all lying even after they created lots of useless jobs (for instance, there were industrial corporations in East Germany where 2/3 of the employees worked in management). Why do you fall for such obvious utopian propaganda?

    I’m not saying Cuba couldn’t be even worse. I’m saying it’s far from good.

    About free thought, I would say you always have free thought, but I think you mean “freedom of expression of your thoughts” or something like that.

    In such countries it really is having the idea that is punished, not just saying it in public. If you tell it to nobody but your best buddy, and the secret police learns of it, you land in the slammer.

    You didn’t have “freedom of thought” in the US during the 50s, nor in Brazil during the military dictatorship.

    And?

    Cuba, as the communist government is getting more and more closer to hegemony, is getting more and more “freedom of thought.

    Evidence?

    About homosexuality, in Cuba, people can get free sex-changing operations. I don’t see why you’re trying to claim that there you don’t have freedom to be homossexual.

    In fucking Iran sex-change operations are legal (and are in fact being performed), while being homosexual is punished by death (in Cuba it’s only jail, AFAIK).

    Being homosexual and being transsexual is simply not the same thing. Being attracted to one’s own sex and feeling one’s brain doesn’t have the same sex as one’s hormone glands isn’t the same thing. You really should read up on these phenomena.

    We don’t know for sure it was engineered,

    See comment 208.

    and it happened during Stalin’s government, not Lenin’s.

    Argh, sorry! I had misremembered it and put it in the wrong decade!

    And yes, before anyone brings it up, I do know all about the Nicaraguan contras and so on. But it doesn’t make Reagan comparable to Lenin.

    [...]

    How many times do I have to point out that Mao and Stalin both murdered substantially more people than Hitler?

    Counting corpses to measure evilness runs into the problem that the number of corpses reflects not only motive, but also means and opportunity.

    Absolutely, Mao and Stalin each produced more corpses than Hitler. But is that just because they had more time and more people at their disposal?

    What more could Reagan have wrought under different conditions?

    If you want to argue that this was some sort of chain reaction brought on by the whole post-WW 1 Versailles thing, then yes you have a point, as far as Germany goes, but it falls short for pre-1917 Russia.

    What Jadehawk said ? Russia was a pretty scary place, complete with a secret police very similar to the later NKVD/GRU/KGB.

  271. #271 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    SC, OM@266,
    Thanks for those links! I hadn’t realised quite what a loathsome individual Roberts is.

  272. #272 Vashti
    April 18, 2010

    Walton:

    I also don’t know what kind of communist Sunsara Taylor is.

    Yes, you said that, but it didn’t stop you from calling her insane which is the only way I can interpret your comment given the context.

    Still, the debate PZ was a part of sounds far more interesting, productive and generally sane. I wish I could have been there.

    Communists qualify as “sane” now?
    Apologists for authoritarianism and mass murder should not be our allies.

    I spelt Communist in that post with a capital “C”. This may have been imprecise – perhaps I should have specified Leninists – but I thought it was reasonably clear what kind of “Communist” I was talking about.

    You can’t dig your way out of this with a capital “C” argument. There was no way to tell if you were using “C” because you have a special definition for Communists or if it was just correct grammar as the first letter of the sentence! Since there was only one communist billed with PZ that night, it seems pretty clear that you are referring to Sunsara.

    I stand by my statement that apologists for Leninism are morally equivalent to apologists for Nazism; and that if one would not engage in dialogue with a Holocaust-denier, then one should not do so with a Leninist.

    Good for you (though I really should point out that there are many Communists who find Marxism-Leninism useful while still condemning mass murder), do you also stand by your “Communists qualify as “sane” now?” statement?

  273. #273 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    Hi Rorschach,

    Copenhagen – I don’t know if i’m going yet, though I’d like to. I first saw something about it here a few days ago. I’m going to be pretty busy between now and then and haven’t yet worked out if I have the time.

  274. #274 Matt Penfold
    April 18, 2010

    SC, OM@266,
    Thanks for those links! I hadn’t realised quite what a loathsome individual Roberts is.

    Nor had I.

    I have read a couple of his books and whilst he is no Irving in that he does not seem to lie about the facts, I often disagree with his conclusions.

    If I was not to read anything else by him it would be no great loss. There are so many decent history books our there, and not enough time in which to read them, that omitting Roberts’ work will not matter.

  275. #275 AnthonyK
    April 18, 2010

    Re China: did you know that “Animal Farm” is still banned there?
    There’s an interesting article by Christopher Hitchens in yesterday’s Guardian, in which he wonders, inter alia, why there isn’t a “Lenin Pig”.

  276. #276 David Marjanovi?
    April 18, 2010

    It was the Great Depression, not Versailles, that brought the Nazis to power.

    The Great Depression, and the propaganda by… at least all parties on the right, which constantly claimed that Versailles was a horrible, horrible catastrophe. Not so much a catastrophe, actually, as a national shame.

    The nationalistic, militaristic education that had already produced WWI hadn’t gone away.

    The psychology of such issues is always more important than the facts, at least in the short run. Right after WWI, large parts of Austria had referenda on whether it should join Germany, with results of well over 90 % “yes”* (except for the westernmost part, which voted by 80 % to join Switzerland**). Why? Because everyone believed the now drastically shrunken Austria was economically unviable, what with “all” the natural resources and the heavy industry and stuff now being behind borders.

    Turns out this impression of Austria’s economic situation was pretty far off, and Austria made great economic progress till the Great Depression hit and set the country back to square 1.

    * These results weren’t acted on because, as you say, the Allies simply forbid it.
    ** Wasn’t acted upon either, because the Swiss were against it ? the merger would have been a major money sink for them!

  277. #277 mulder
    April 18, 2010

    Hm, on a very quick scan, I don’t see a single responder (though there may easily be one) who’s made the following obvious observation.

    Jesus was a capitalist? First of all, what happened to this “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…” stuff, too old testamenty? As I recall it, Jesus was all about the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, and the ostracized. Pretty sure that christians were forbidden to indulge in usury, heck, it was actually a sin.

  278. #278 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    I would say that Nazism and Communism (as per above discussion) have this in common – each of them were out-of-control reactions to oppression to the point of starvation that led people to behave like cornered animals. – echidna

    To compare conditions in 1933 Germany with those in 1917 Russia is a stretch: Germany in 1933 had high unemployment but a functioning economy, an elected government, no foreign troops on its territory and no mass hunger; Russia in 1917 was being disastrously defeated in war, huge swathes of its territory occupied, the armed forces deserting, the towns not being fed because peasants refused the worthless bits of paper the government printed, industry thus collapsing as workers fled to the countryside, two parallel “governments”, neither with real power… The Nazis gained power by playing the political game (playing dirty to be sure), the Bolsheviks by grabbing the board and pieces after WWI upset them. Germany did have a viable political and economic alternative to the Nazis, but the parties of the conservative right and the Catholic Centre sided with the Nazis at key moments. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, are typical of the authoritarian phase that often arises in social revolutions (consider Savonarola’s florence, Calvin’s Geneva, Cromwell’s Protectorate, the Jacobins, Iranian theocracy) – disintegration of existing power-structures can give groups of authoritarian ideologues the opportunity to seize power. Maoism, like Soviet Bolshevism, arose in a country devastated by war; Germany, OTOH, was not devastated during WWI, although of course it lost millions of soldiers and many civilians. There were many parallels to the Nazis’ method of gaining power by mixing legal and illegal means on the authoritarian, nationalistic right: Mussolini in Italy, Dolfuss in Austria, Carol II of Romania, etc. – these are much more useful points of comparison.

  279. #279 David Marjanovi?
    April 18, 2010

    he wonders, inter alia, why there isn’t a “Lenin Pig”.

    Why indeed.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  280. #280 SC OM
    April 18, 2010

    from the banning of the slave trade

    You should read The Many-Headed Hydra.

    there is also much that was brutal, barbaric, and motivated by bigotry or the desire for profit. The British people have not yet really acknowledged or come to terms with this.

    Don’t forget that it has also been motivated by ideology (forms other than racism).

    Re China: did you know that “Animal Farm” is still banned there?
    There’s an interesting article by Christopher Hitchens in yesterday’s Guardian, in which he wonders, inter alia, why there isn’t a “Lenin Pig”.

    Huh. I read it when I was very young, but I think I always assumed Old Major was Lenin or a blending of Marx and Lenin.

    I watched this on BookTV a couple of weeks ago:

    http://www.booktv.org/Program/11280/After+Words+George+Packer+ed+George+Orwells+Facing+Unpleasant+Facts+and+All+Art+Is+Propaganda+interviewed+by+Christopher+Hitchens.aspx

    (I’ve expressed my opinion of Hitchens before, so I won’t again. Decent discussion.)

  281. #281 David Marjanovi?
    April 18, 2010

    Maoism, like Soviet Bolshevism, arose in a country devastated by war; Germany, OTOH, was not devastated during WWI, although of course it lost millions of soldiers and many civilians.

    Again the psychology of the issue is very important. Germany didn’t lose WWI by losing any battle, it lost because it ran out of supplies for the army. The soldiers in their trenches didn’t understand why they were suddenly called home ? they weren’t aware of the increasing poverty behind the front ? and started looking for who had “stabbed them in the back”…

  282. #282 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Walton,
    You certainly don’t give any sign of being a xenophobe, but to say you are “critical of the EU” is like saying Stalin was critical of Trotsky (or indeed vice versa). You have expressed your conviction it should be destroyed (not just that the UK should leave); and your purported grounds are the CAP, and corruption. Certainly both are considerable evils, but you have never made clear why unfair protectionism and corruption would disappear from Europe if the EU did, nor why the same kind of protectionism has not led you to call for the dissolution of the USA.

    Hmmm. I realise my statements on this issue have been a little confused and incoherent in the past, largely because I really don’t have a great answer to this question.

    I don’t want the EU to be dissolved, really. But I do feel I have an obligation, as an “EU citizen”, to speak out against its trade and agricultural policies.

    At the same time, I would never vote for UKIP, because I suspect that – even in the vanishingly unlikely event that they ever formed a government and succeeded in leaving the EU – the influence of xenophobes and protectionists within their ranks would be such that we would end up with even more restrictive policies on trade and immigration, and with Britain being isolated and marginalised within Europe.

    For this reason, there are a lot of “Eurosceptics” with whom I won’t make common cause. I strongly support the principle of the common market, with free movement of goods, capital and people across national boundaries. Free immigration and free trade are ultimately good things for everyone. By contrast, a lot of British Eurosceptics are also economic nationalists and are in favour of more restrictive immigration policies – which is completely the opposite of my position.

    I don’t have time to continue this argument now, as I need to get back to work. Sorry this isn’t very coherent.

  283. #283 Sven DiMilo
    April 18, 2010

    Funny, I’ve been talking to my daughter (8th grade) about Animal Farm just this week. I remember being taught that the story works at at least three levels: the superficial animal story, a general fable about the inexorable corruption of popular revolutions, and as a specific retelling of the Russian example. Perhaps the exclusion of a specifically Leninesque pig was meant to retain some generality. Or, as SC sez, perhaps Old Major was meant to be a composite. ‘Kipedia includes this latter interpretation.

  284. #284 David Marjanovi?
    April 18, 2010

    a general fable about the inexorable corruption of popular revolutions

    Indeed, Napoleon is… wait for it… wait for it… an obvious Napoleon analogue in his capacity as the dictator who takes over after the revolution.

  285. #285 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 18, 2010

    Walton,

    The atrocities committed by Communists are bad. The atrocities committed in Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua, etc. are also bad. What people are getting upset about is your plain inconsistency to give apologists for the latter a free pass. If you truly believed that apologists authoritarianism and mass murder then you’d be equally upset anytime anyone talked to a neocon or a Reagan worshiper.

  286. #286 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    Germany didn’t lose WWI by losing any battle, it lost because it ran out of supplies for the army. The soldiers in their trenches didn’t understand why they were suddenly called home ? they weren’t aware of the increasing poverty behind the front ? and started looking for who had “stabbed them in the back”… – David Marjanovi?

    On the contrary, the batle of Amiens (8-9 August) and subsequent Allied advances, made it clear the war was lost militarily once the German offensive of 1918 had failed (if that offensive had succeeded, France would have had to sue for peace, and Britain to withdraw the BEF and continue the war, if at all, in the Balkans and the Near East). Bulgaria was asking the Allies for an armistice, Ottoman Turkey and Austria-Hungary were clearly going to collapse before long, and finally the German High Seas Fleet mutinied rather than sail against the Royal Navy in what was clearly a suicide mission. The blockade made things worse, but even without it, Imperial Germany had lost the war.

  287. #287 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 18, 2010

    Indeed, Napoleon is… wait for it… wait for it… an obvious Napoleon analogue in his capacity as the dictator who takes over after the revolution.

    The subtleties of Orwell. (Funny enough, I’m currently reading Homage to Catalonia.)

  288. #288 maureen.brian#b5c92
    April 18, 2010

    Hell, I missed all that. I had promised to be at a crown green bowling tournament in Todmorden.

  289. #289 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    The atrocities committed by Communists are bad. The atrocities committed in Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua, etc. are also bad. What people are getting upset about is your plain inconsistency to give apologists for the latter a free pass. If you truly believed that apologists authoritarianism and mass murder then you’d be equally upset anytime anyone talked to a neocon or a Reagan worshiper.

    There is absolutely no comparison. Reagan was a legally elected political officeholder, who entered and left office at the constitutionally appointed time, and did not use force to achieve or maintain power. He did not murder his political opponents, conduct show trials, censor the media, abolish the independent judiciary, or send “enemies of the state” to internment camps.

    He did make the controversial foreign policy decision to prioritise the defeat of Communism over everything else, and, to this end, armed and supported various right-wing authoritarian regimes and insurrectional movements, as well as taking direct military action on some occasions, as with the invasion of Grenada. He can be criticised or lauded for that, depending on your view of foreign policy; it’s indisputable that he was responsible, directly and indirectly, for a lot of civilian deaths. He did also do some stupidly authoritarian things on the home front, such as ramping up the “War on Drugs” – which also had effects abroad, as US drug enforcement policy was and is causing death and suffering in parts of Latin America.

    So no one here is claiming that Reagan was a hero. He deserves to be criticised for plenty of things. But he was no Lenin.

  290. #290 maureen.brian#b5c92
    April 18, 2010

    ‘Tis Himself @ 249,

    As I’m sure you can just about imagine from where you are, bits keep falling off and I have half a Meccano set in one leg.

    If I can just keep enough of the corporeal me together, though, I feel that I’m good for another 30 years. Besides, I like being alive.

    And a very happy birthday, if belated, to you, kid!

  291. #291 AnthonyK
    April 18, 2010

    Hitchens claims that the parallels between the pigs taking over and the betrayal of the revolution are very exact, even down to the suppression of the animals, song “The Beasts of England” as Stalin banned the Internationale. So that would make “Napoleon” Stalin, not Napoleon. But I’ll refer you to the original piece (which contains absolutely no Hitchenesque ranting.)

  292. #292 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 18, 2010

    Reagan was a legally elected political officeholder, who entered and left office at the constitutionally appointed time, and did not use force to achieve or maintain power. He did not murder his political opponents, conduct show trials, censor the media, abolish the independent judiciary, or send “enemies of the state” to internment camps.

    Okay, so his most serious crimes were foreign rather than domestic. So what? Murder is murder.

    He did make the controversial foreign policy decision to prioritise the defeat of Communism

    Oh, please. The priotirites of the Reagan administration were to maintain US power. Fear of communism was just the excuse used. Do you honestly think the superpower was shaking in its boots that lightly armed communists were a two-day car ride away from Texas?

    But he was no Lenin.

    So what? Yeah, no two mass murderers are 100% the same. Regardless of whether the body count was comparable to Lenin (proably was), by your own criteria his apologists should not be talked to. You completely ignored this point.

  293. #293 Roestigraben
    April 18, 2010

    On the contrary, the batle of Amiens (8-9 August) and subsequent Allied advances, made it clear the war was lost militarily once the German offensive of 1918 had failed.

    QFT. Still, when considering the impact of the Versailles settlement on the rise of the Nazis, it’s true that popular perceptions of this treaty were both at odds with reality and were a central part of nationalist propaganda. It was certainly clear to the German military leadership that the war had been lost, but they deliberately developed the so-called Dolchstosslegende in order to hide their own failure and to discredit their left-wing domestic opponents, and they were remarkably successful in getting people to believe this narrative. The fact that a lot of Germans perceived Versailles as an assault on their national pride helped Hitler first gain power and then bolster his popularity when he began to dismantle the settlement.

  294. #294 https://me.yahoo.com/a/AYYWe.VxltJyQ0ydjXTpKNhq_S625nfRRq6RpMNrLtQru_8U#f873c
    April 18, 2010

    The fact that the priest was the most moderate person in this video is scary :o

  295. #295 abb3w
    April 18, 2010

    David Marjanovi?: Sorry, I completely forgot that the same objection applies again: induction isn’t used to test methodological naturalism, observation is. We invent the hypothesis that the universe is consistent enough, derive predictions from it (like “this computer will not spontaneously float away”), and then test those predictions by observation?

    But testing those predictions relies on the assumption that the universe is consistent enough for the test to be meaningful, and thus doesn’t test the original hypothesis of having a pattern.

    The easy alternative to Assertion of Pattern is Refutation of Pattern, which provides an equivalently valid alternate interpretation: all of that apparent pattern is just an infinite coincidence. You’re picking a particular real number from the interval (0,1], and thus the particular real number you got has zero probability.

    skeptical scientist: If you take the regularity of the universe as an axiomatic prior, then there is no problem of induction, and never was.

    Even with the prior, there still remains the problem of when a particular induction might be justified… which this resolves.

    If you take instead Hume’s actual question “What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience?”, an answer (leaving out some of the math) also appears to be given: “An explicit assumption that pattern exists.” And, as noted, the assumption leads to resolving some of the cases.

    I don’t utterly preclude the possibility of extending “pattern” beyond ordinal hypercomputation complexity in AH; however, given the “limits to its usefulness” that already burden at RE, let alone AH, any extension to uncountable cardinals seems likely to be at the “zero probability of useful” threshold.

    skeptical scientist: If you like, it reduces the problem to another problem, but that doesn’t actually solve the problem.

    It answers Hume’s question, but in a way that immediately presents a subsequent one. This, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t an answer; note that in “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”, Hume reached his question as one in a sequence.

    The subsequent question is solvable in the traditional mathematical approach used for the Axiom of Choice: “Assert, Refute, or Avoid”. If you Avoid it, you do not deal with any questions about Experience or patterns thereof, but can still play with other abstract ideas that are not explicitly related; thus, the pure mathematicians. If you Assert it, it coughs up means for competitive testing of presented hypotheses; thus, the scientists. If you Refute it, no such testing is possible; this allows for the type of solipsists/nihilists who reject the existence of the universe, along with some surrealists who reject earlier assumptions.

    One also may Assert more specific assumptions, such as the assertion of particular patterns; Exemplum Gratia, Biblical Inerrancy. (From that assumption, “creation science” and “flood geology” follow nicely.) However, such assertions may be tested within the more general Assumption; and, in the case of the example, evaluated as probably being incorrect.

    Meyrick Kirby: To abb3w thank you for your reply.

    No problem.

  296. #296 kerry
    April 18, 2010

    @#14 My head hurts and I am afriad to fall asleep now. Why did I click, even after PZ said it was crazy….I just couldn’t turn away.

  297. #297 Aaron Baker
    April 18, 2010

    Re #293:

    All correct. Consider for a moment, too, that Versailles was less punitive to Germany than the terms the Germans imposed on Russia at Brest-Litovsk. See also Germany’s plans for France and Belgium in the event of a German victory (laid out in numbing detail by Fritz Fischer in Germany’s Aims in the First World War).

    German civilians would have resented terms based on surrender in any event; but the German Right did everything in its power to magnify that resentment.

  298. #298 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    Roestigraben@293,

    Agreed!

  299. #299 SC OM
    April 18, 2010

    did not use force to achieve or maintain power

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People's_Park

    “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.” – Reagan

  300. #300 https://me.yahoo.com/a/.PdEcikKkP_lDqJpDrUGsHFoie0Afkc-#a7221
    April 18, 2010

    I don’t have time right now for a whole exchange, though I may come back here later today. It’s disturbing that no one here is even engaging with Sunsara’s actual thinking on science, morality, and changing the world. Instead, she is accused of being insane and supporting mass murderers. These are blatant lies. Why is no one calling this out? I’ll repost the link to her blog post “Great Fun With a Scientist and a Priest at U of Chicago” reflecting on her discussion with PZ and Bob Bossie, as well as her previous post “Bob Avakian, the Science of Communism, and the Stupid Logic of Those Who Call It A Religion” commenting on an earlier thread on PZ’s “Another week, another university.” I hope this thread can rise above de rigueur anti-communism and apply some critical thinking and academic rigor.

    –Ray Geming

  301. #301 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 18, 2010

    Instead, she is accused of being insane and supporting mass murderers. These are blatant lies.

    I’m not familiar enough with Sunsara Taylor to know if she’s insane, but she’s a disciple of Bob Avakian. He would kill the reactionaries (i.e., everyone not in lockstep with Avakian) in a heartbeat. So the charge of supporting mass murderers is not too far-fetched.

  302. #302 SC OM
    April 18, 2010

    Avakian:

    The struggle to reach communism does involve and require a conscious and organized leading group, a vanguard, which, if it is going to lead the advance to communism, must base itself not on a utopian ideal but on a scientific understanding of human society and its historical development, and the fact that this historical development, while not following any predetermined plan nor any transcendental will, has nevertheless led humanity to a situation where there is the possibility?not the inevitability but the possibility?of making the leap to communism;…

    To paraphrase Bakunin, go fuck yourselves.

    http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/bakunin/godandstate/godandstate_ch1.html

  303. #303 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 18, 2010

    It’s disturbing that no one here is even engaging with Sunsara’s actual thinking on science, morality, and changing the world.

    Her views on “changing the world” involve a communist revolution. Past examples of what this has lead to are quite pertinent.

    Also, she doesn’t allow comments on her blog. Funny, given this.

  304. #304 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 18, 2010

    I won’t try to explain the splintering of American leftist groups in the late 1960s and 1970s. Such an explanation would be full of acronyms like SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), RYM2 (Revolutionary Youth Movement 2 and not to be confused with RYM1), and RSB (Revolutionary Student Brigades). Bob Avakian emerged as the leader of the RU (Revolutionary Union), later transmogrified into the RCP-USA (Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA). I also won’t try to differentiate between the RU and the RCP, since Avakian was Maximum Leader Chairman of both, so I’ll just call it the RCP.

    I first became aware of the RCP in the middle 1970s when in grad school in a Boston suburb. Boston was in the midst of the famous school busing desegregation conflict. Surprisingly the RCP stood steadfast with the white supremacists in opposing busing. This stance stemmed from the RCP’s perception of the US working class as white and male. To his credit Avakian now admits the RCP’s objection to busing was a mistake. Other, similar mistakes included the RCP’s views on homosexuality, youth culture, and unmarried couples living together-all of which they opposed as being ultimately bourgeois.

    The arguments, then and now, made by Avakian show the logic of following ideological doctrine. Acts can be rationalized which would otherwise appall the person doing the rationalization. Likewise, mistakes are made when the doctrine itself is based on an incorrect understanding of the situation.

    Avakian is an avowed Maoist, the most authoritarian and possibly the most dogmatic, branch of Marxism. Avakian is following Mao in establishing a cult of personality. Eric Gordon says in The Maoist Cult of Bob Avakian:

    RCP members refer to themselves as “comrades and students of RCP Chairman Bob Avakian”, and argue that “if you want to change the world … you need to know Bob Avakian”. They talk of the need to “cherish him and defend” him, because “a leader like this only comes along once in a great while”. We are called on to read his memoirs and listen to “the whole 11-hour DVD set” of Bob Avakian speaking, and hold parties to view it with everyone we know. One article describes an immigrant working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, who takes his one day off on New Years day to travel to the Rose Bowl parade and “tell people about Bob Avakian”, and claims that in the projects in LA people now greet each other by “putting their fists to their hearts and shouting out, ‘B. A.’”. Someone even “begins to cry as he hears of the future envisioned by Bob Avakian — ‘People need this kind of leader to unleash their creativity’”. One acolyte is quoted on their website saying “if Lenin were alive today, he’d sound a lot like Bob Avakian”. At demonstrations, these students of Avakian have chanted “The earth is quakin’/ Follow Bob Avakian/ The empire’s shakin’/ Follow Bob Avakian!”

  305. #305 negentropyeater
    April 18, 2010

    Her views on “changing the world” involve a communist revolution. Past examples of what this has lead to are quite pertinent.

    True enough. But what’s the alternative strategy to bring about change? I don’t get PZ’s ” evolution driven by the education and inspiration of the masses kind of guy”, how is that going to work?

    Maybe someone can explain. I’m still doubtful that any succesful change will come about without a chaotic discontinuity.

  306. #306 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 18, 2010

    maureen.brian#b5c92 #290

    Besides, I like being alive.

    That’s all that matters.

  307. #307 SC OM
    April 18, 2010

    One acolyte is quoted on their website saying “if Lenin were alive today, he’d sound a lot like Bob Avakian”.

    http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/kropotkin/kropotlenindec20.html

    http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/kropotkin/kropotlenindec203.html

  308. #308 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 18, 2010

    I accidentally hit enter too early, but I was saying that calling you a reagan worshiper was over the top. Didn’t you think that was an odd cutoff? My next post was finishing that thought.

    At least hit the people who are hitting you, jeez.

  309. #309 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    All correct. Consider for a moment, too, that Versailles was less punitive to Germany than the terms the Germans imposed on Russia at Brest-Litovsk. See also Germany’s plans for France and Belgium in the event of a German victory (laid out in numbing detail by Fritz Fischer in Germany’s Aims in the First World War).

    well, yes. all politics of that time suffered from braindeadedness and idiotic punitiveness.

  310. #310 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    Copenhagen – I don’t know if i’m going yet, though I’d like to.

    pretty please with a cherry on top?

  311. #311 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 18, 2010

    See also Germany’s plans for France and Belgium in the event of a German victory

    One of the evidences that Ludendorff had lost contact with reality at the end of WWI was his belief that Belgium would not object to giving the cities of Lille and Bruges to the Germans “because of the great sacrifices the German army and people had suffered during the war.”¹ He told this to the Kaiser in October 1918 and was shocked when Wilhelm laughed in his face.

    ¹J.H. Johnson, 1918: The Unexpected Victory. London: Cassell & Co, 1999. P. 167.

  312. #312 Walton
    April 18, 2010

    Rutee: Sorry, I never saw your second post (someone else posted in between). My mistake. :-(

  313. #313 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    David M.,

    Wikipedia on LGBT rights in Cuba:

    Sexual relations between same-sex consenting adults 16 and over have been legal in Cuba since 1979, although same-sex relationships are not presently recognised by the state. Despite elements of homophobia in Cuba’s history, Havana now has a lively and vibrant gay scene.

    Public antipathy towards LGBT people is high, reflecting regional norms. This has eased somewhat since the 1990s. Educational campaigns on LGBT issues are currently implemented by the National Center for Sex Education, headed by Mariela Castro.

    This would certainly compare very favourably with Jamaica, for example. Cuba was initially very suthoritarian in its treatment of HIV-positive individuals, but this has changed pretty completely. Obviously, Cuba is still a dicatatorship, but the regime’s successes and failures should be assessed objectively.

  314. #314 strange gods before me ?
    April 18, 2010

    He did make the controversial foreign policy decision to prioritise the defeat of his enemies.

  315. #315 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    Jadehawk, OM@310,

    I’m touched! Are you going to be there?

  316. #316 Vashti
    April 18, 2010

    But what’s the alternative strategy to bring about change? I don’t get PZ’s ” evolution driven by the education and inspiration of the masses kind of guy”, how is that going to work?

    Maybe someone can explain. I’m still doubtful that any succesful change will come about without a chaotic discontinuity.

    I have the opposite problem, I just don’t understand how people like Sunsara can insist that revolution is the only (or even best) way to bring about change. Claiming it is the only way seems a mite ridiculous (nevermind arrogant). Granted, it would bring fast change, but how can violent or sudden chaotic changes lead to lasting change?

  317. #317 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    I’m touched! Are you going to be there?

    hellz yeah! already bought the conference tickets :-)

  318. #318 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    how can violent or sudden chaotic changes lead to lasting change? – Vashti

    Er, just think about that for a minute, and I’m sure you’ll see how stupid it is. If not, consider – for example – the meteorite/comet that ended the Mesozoic, or the early conquests of Islam.

  319. #319 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    Jadehawk, OM,

    Well, that’s certainly an extra incentive :-p
    I’ll work on it!

  320. #320 negentropyeater
    April 18, 2010

    I just don’t understand how people like Sunsara can insist that revolution is the only (or even best) way to bring about change

    I think it all depends on what amount of change you think is necessary. If you think the capitalist sytem is fundamntally flawed no amount of gradual change is going to help.

  321. #321 Jadehawk, OM
    April 18, 2010

    Well, that’s certainly an extra incentive :-p
    I’ll work on it!

    yay!!!

  322. #322 Aaron Baker
    April 18, 2010

    Knockgoats wrote: “Er, just think about that for a minute, and I’m sure you’ll see how stupid it is. If not, consider – for example – the meteorite/comet that ended the Mesozoic, or the early conquests of Islam.”

    Maybe Vashti meant “lasting positive change.” Violence certainly has made the world better at times (e.g. the Civil War ended slavery; WW II destroyed Nazism), but in those instances typically at an appalling cost. The violent communist revolutions of the 20th c. in each case put elites in power who, unsuprisingly, tended to deal with any perceived problem (including opposition by others) violently. Violence begetting violence, if you don’t mind the cliche.

  323. #323 windy
    April 18, 2010

    David:

    Argh, sorry! I had misremembered it and put it in the wrong decade!

    Actually, your misremembered claim had some truth in it, since there was an earlier Soviet famine in 1921 which Lenin’s policies aggravated.

  324. #324 Knockgoats
    April 18, 2010

    Aaron Baker@322,
    Your own examples show that violence can bring about lasting positive change. (Intersectionists please note: I am not advocating violence here, but stating a fact.) Vashti was talking nonsense.

  325. #325 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawk2L5vTZFJSn6U4cu6rFqb0FxBSgyGoRDo
    April 18, 2010
  326. #326 Vashti
    April 18, 2010

    just think about that for a minute, and I’m sure you’ll see how stupid it is

    Oh, it was beyond stupid – the wording was utterly thoughtless and would make me a hypocrite ten times over if I actually meant it. Thank you for pointing it out.

    Maybe Vashti meant “lasting positive change

    Thanks Aaron, but that still would have been rather short-sighted on my part. Revolution and violence have been known to create long-term beneficial changes in human societies. (And I am not quite the pacifist I sounded like in my comment, so I can’t fall back to that position).

    I think it all depends on what amount of change you think is necessary. If you think the capitalist sytem is fundamntally flawed no amount of gradual change is going to help.

    I do think it is inherently flawed but I also think enough change over enough time could transform a system from capitalism into something else. Of course, the amount of time necessary could render this approach impractical.

    The point I failed to make earlier should have been something like: “Sunsara’s particular version of revolution really irked me the other night and I don’t trust her beloved leader to bring about any sort of stable change that I would want to live under.” I actually went to the event expecting to be much more sympathetic to Sunsara’s views (some of which I thought I shared). Apparently while focusing primarily on mundane matters for a couple of years, I changed my mind somewhat and didn’t realize it. A little disconcerting to discover that I am a bit unclear on my own position, but at least I am now motivated to spend some time thinking about it (hopefully before I go making any more really stupid statements).

  327. #328 SC OM
    April 18, 2010

    Violence certainly has made the world better at times (e.g. the Civil War ended slavery; WW II destroyed Nazism), but in those instances typically at an appalling cost.

    I read this recently:

    http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2010/1/8/howard_zinn_three_holy_wars

    I hate when people describe articles or books as provocative (I guess because I don’t like people who seek mainly to provoke), but whatever. Loose and not documented, but provocative.

  328. #329 https://me.yahoo.com/a/.PdEcikKkP_lDqJpDrUGsHFoie0Afkc-#a7221
    April 18, 2010

    ?Tis Himself, OM @301

    I’m not familiar enough with Sunsara Taylor to know if she’s insane, but she’s a disciple of Bob Avakian. He would kill the reactionaries (i.e., everyone not in lockstep with Avakian) in a heartbeat. So the charge of supporting mass murderers is not too far-fetched.

    This is absolutely not true and utterly irresponsible. This kind of distortion, can only aid forces of repression and vicious (and often violent) anti-communism.

    Anyone who could post such a claim has clearly never read Avakian or honestly engaged this revolutionary leader?s work.

    -Ray Geming

  329. #330 Walton
    April 19, 2010

    This is absolutely not true and utterly irresponsible. This kind of distortion, can only aid forces of repression and vicious (and often violent) anti-communism.

    Stop playing the fucking martyr. No one is “repressing” you. Due to the guarantees of free speech, and the multiple avenues of self-expression, that exist in Teh Eeeebil liberal-bourgeois society, you are free to spout your Marxist bullshit on the internet as much as you please. (Which is more freedom than you and your cult leader would allow, were you in power, to those who disagree with your agenda.) Show me where you are being repressed or threatened with coercion because of your views.

    In a free society, you have the right to promote Marxism as much as you like. Equally, in a free society, the rest of us have the right to call you a credulous idiot.

  330. #331 John Morales
    April 19, 2010

    mulder @277, I’m late catching up to this thread, but this:

    Jesus was a capitalist?
    [...] As I recall it, Jesus was all about the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, and the ostracized. Pretty sure that christians were forbidden to indulge in usury, heck, it was actually a sin.

    I’m of the opinion that pretty much any view can be defended Biblically; in the case of usury, The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28).

  331. #332 https://me.yahoo.com/a/.PdEcikKkP_lDqJpDrUGsHFoie0Afkc-#a7221
    April 19, 2010

    I?m not going to chase after every lie. This torrent of baseless and unprovable assertions should discredit their authors. And, anyone who is a critical thinker and desires a better world should check out what Avakian says for themselves. In medicine, if someone found a cure for AIDS all the doctors and everybody interested in eradicating this disease would be checking out the science clamoring to know if this was true. If you want to do away with the horrors of capitalism, for humanity to emancipate itself, and want to be intellectually honest and not rule alternatives off the table without inquiry, then I invite you to engage his work. To delve into the real history of communist revolutions and socialist states check out Set The Record Straight project. And to get a taste for what Avakian is actually talking about here?s a couple quotes, from Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1:

    ?This new synthesis involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions, so as to have a more deeply and firmly rooted scientific orientation, method and approach with regard not only to making revolution and seizing power but then, yes, to meeting the material requirements of society and the needs of the masses of people, in an increasingly expanding way, in socialist society?overcoming the deep scars of the past and continuing the revolutionary transformation of society, while at the same time actively supporting the world revolutionary struggle and acting on the recognition that the world arena and the world struggle are most fundamental and important, in an overall sense?together with opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in ?civil society? independently of the state?all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale.

    In a sense, it could be said that the new synthesis is a synthesis of the previous experience of socialist society and of the international communist movement more broadly, on the one hand, and of the criticisms, of various kinds and from various standpoints, of that experience, on the other hand. That does not mean that this new synthesis represents a mere ?pasting together? of that experience on the one hand, and the criticisms on the other hand. It is not an eclectic combination of these things, but a sifting through, a recasting and recombining on the basis of a scientific, materialist and dialectical outlook and method, and of the need to continue advancing toward communism, a need and objective which this outlook and method continues to point to?and, the more thoroughly and deeply it is taken up and applied, the more firmly it points to this need and objective.?

    And from Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism:

    The third alternative is a real radical rupture. Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto that the communist revolution represents a radical rupture with traditional property relations and with traditional ideas. And the one is not possible without the other. They are mutually reinforcing, one way or the other.
    If you have a society in which the fundamental role of women is to be breeders of children, how can you have a society in which there is equality between men and women? You cannot. And if you don’t attack and uproot the traditions, the morals, and so on, that reinforce that role, how can you transform the relations between men and women and abolish the deep-seated inequalities that are bound up with the whole division of society into oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited? You cannot.
    So the third alternative is a real radical rupture in every sphere, a radically different synthesis, to put it that way. Or to put it another way, it’s a society and a world that the great majority of people would actually want to live in. One in which not only do they not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or if they get sick whether they’re going to be told that they can’t have health care because they can’t pay for it, as important as that is; but one in which they are actually taking up, wrangling with, and increasingly making their own province all the different spheres of society.
    Achieving that kind of a society, and that kind of a world, is a very profound challenge. It’s much more profound than simply changing a few forms of ownership of the economy and making sure that, on that basis, people’s social welfare is taken care of, but you still have people who are taking care of that for the masses of people; and all the spheres of science, the arts, philosophy and all the rest are basically the province of a few. And the political decision-making process remains the province of a few.

    To really leap beyond that is a tremendous and world-historic struggle that we’ve been embarked on since the Russian revolution (not counting the very short-lived and limited experience of the Paris Commune) — and in which we reached the high point with the Chinese revolution and in particular the Cultural Revolution — but from which we’ve been thrown back temporarily.

    So we need to make a further leap on the basis of summing up very deeply all that experience. There are some very real and vexing problems that we have to confront and advance through in order to draw from the best of the past, but go further and do even better in the future.

    -Ray Geming

  332. #333 https://me.yahoo.com/a/.PdEcikKkP_lDqJpDrUGsHFoie0Afkc-#a7221
    April 19, 2010

    In response to the posts calling Sunsara Taylor a ?disciple,? go read what she has to say about taking as a theoretical foundation Bob Avakian?s new synthesis of communism, on herblog:

    ?? a number of folks wrote comments implying that because I promote the leadership of Bob Avakian that I am just a proponent for another kind of religion. This is simplistic and wrong. But because of the pervasive anti-communism in society this kind of simplistic and wrong argumentation is accepted all too unthinkingly by folks who really ought to know better.

    So, let?s clarify a few things:

    The fact that I cite the work of Avakian makes communism a religion about as much as the fact that evolutionary biologists cite the work of Darwin makes biology a religion. Just as Darwin made a scientific breakthrough that advanced the whole framework in which scientists were able to understand and further explore the natural world, so has Avakian developed a new synthesis of the science of communism which provides a much more advanced framework in which to understand and transform the natural and the social world.

    In evaluating whether something is a religion or science, the criteria is NOT whether or not the works and role of key individuals are recognized and upheld. The criteria is to evaluate whether that person and their body of work (their premises, their claims, their method and their approach to engaging the world) are based in reality and are refined and developed (and at times, ruptured and resynthesized) by a further engagement with reality ? or whether their claims are rooted instead in mythology and then stubbornly clung to in the face of (and in conflict with) discoveries about reality. The former is science (and yes, communism ? understood and practiced correctly ? IS a science) and the latter is religion.?

  333. #334 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 19, 2010

    Yawn, same old communist/socialist shit I heard back in the early ’70′s. Boring and inane then, boring and inane now. Same old lies. BORING.

  334. #335 https://me.yahoo.com/a/.PdEcikKkP_lDqJpDrUGsHFoie0Afkc-#a7221
    April 19, 2010

    blockquote mishap this last post, everthing after the block quote through the end is part of the quote

    -Ray Geming

  335. #336 John Morales
    April 19, 2010

    Apparently, communists are good at generating great slabs of text.

    PS, O logorrheic one, disciple is polysemous, and only in its minor senses does it even relate to religion.

  336. #337 Cimourdain
    April 19, 2010

    And there we have it: the reason why religion isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The great strength of religious right has always been to point to people like you – you know who you are – and say, “Yeah, they talk a good case for being able to practice morality without God – but where are they when the chips are down? Apologizing for the most murderous system in human history, that’s where.”

    And they’re right. They’re absolutely right. I remember wondering why when I mentioned the various genocides abroad, or the horrors that environmental policy (by restricting trade and resource exploitation) visits on the third world. Well, now I can see it in full action. If you’re willing to apologize for the enslaving of a third of the planet, heck, what’s a few million corpses here and there? Especially if they’re off in that part of the world I don’t need to look at. Let ‘em starve, there’s always some more to experiment on…

    Now those of us who have actually studied philosophy know that Communism is, in essence, a Christian heresy – the most life-hating elements of Christianity purified. But you wouldn’t get that from this stuff.

    In her case, though, the philosophical justification wasn’t at all superfluous ? Communism was the best strategy for bringing about change.

    “In the Taliban’s case, the philosophical justification wasn’t at all superfluous – Salafist Islam was the best strategy for bringing about change”.

    I don’t like the idea of a revolution led by a vanguard, I’m more of an evolution driven by the education and inspiration of the masses kind of guy.

    ” If a totalitarian tyranny can be established piecemeal, nice and slowly, why, what’s the problem?”

    The concession I would have to make is that communism is a young philosophy, unlike religion, so it can be excused to some degree for being at the start of the learning curve.

    This one just makes me want to puke. Yeah. Excuse the hundred million plus slaughtered, the chain-gangs, torture chambers, the reduction of entire peoples to slavery, the secret police that made the Inquisition look liberal and tolerant – yeah, excuse away.

    Spare me the standard protestations, by the way. There is one position that cannot be taken in this instance. I’ll spell it out:

    There is no such thing as a man who is honestly concerned for human well-being but not slowed by endless mounds of corpses.

    Pat Robertson must be laughing his ass off. You chaps think you’re his enemy? My dears, you’re the best friend he’s ever had. He must be laughing all the way to the bank and the prayer breakfast.

  337. #338 John Morales
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain, nice rant, but you confuse the ideals of Communism with the implementations that have been called Communism.

    I cannot see how (given human nature) an implementation of the ideals can be realistically achieved for any length of time, but neither can I see that, were it to be achieved, it would be a totalitarian tyranny.

    There is one position that cannot be taken in this instance. I’ll spell it out:
    There is no such thing as a man who is honestly concerned for human well-being but not slowed by endless mounds of corpses.

    Um, by “cannot”, did you mean to write “should”?

  338. #339 abb3w
    April 19, 2010

    Vashti: Granted, it would bring fast change, but how can violent or sudden chaotic changes lead to lasting change?

    Depends what you mean by “lead to”. You can get a violent revolution in at least two ways. A revolution can be an attempt to cause a major shift in underlying social conditions, or the result of one.

    The problem is (leaving verified science well behind), most radicals underestimate the inertia and quasi-equilibrium stability of social systems. You need a massive impulse to permanently alter the shape of the equilibrium– or the accumulated deformation of a slow, steady pressure. The former seldom works; the latter is seldom stoppable.

    What confuses people is that the slow deformation may produce revolution via increasing strain allowing it to become possible to have an exponentially-propagating equilibrium shift. Revolutions are the visible tsunami wave hitting the shore; the energy, however, comes from build-up and release of tectonic pressures. The mass of idiots who don’t understand that correlation is not causation then think that revolutions cause vast social changes, instead of only being the hallmark of them. Which figuratively results in lots of idiots sitting on surfboards just off-shore splashing with their hands.

    Of course, such exponential shifts usually don’t go right to the new equilibrium; the energy of the exponential change can result in a bit of overshoot, which leaves a bit of a ringing oscillation afterward. Most social systems have damping factors that limit the scope of overshoot, but the overshoot can take you all the way past one semi-stable equilibrium to the next… neither of which, however, need necessarily be long term stable. (I suspect that’s what happened in circa 1917 Russia.)

  339. #340 abb3w
    April 19, 2010

    Oh, another detail: if the pressure builds up unequally (say, more in one part of the country than another), the exponential shift will not be revolution, but civil war.

  340. #341 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain,

    The great strength of religious right has always been to point to people like you – you know who you are – and say, “Yeah, they talk a good case for being able to practice morality without God – but where are they when the chips are down? Apologizing for the most murderous system in human history, that’s where.”

    You call that a “great strength”? I’d call that the great lie of religious right.

    Quite a few western democracies have been practicing quite succesfully morality without God, and they haven’t been “apologizing for the most murderous system in human history (whichever that is).

    or the horrors that environmental policy (by restricting trade and resource exploitation) visits on the third world

    One more baseless affirmation from someone who thinks we should just consume and waste as many critical resources as we want without any regard whatsoever for those who aren’t able to get sufficient resources to satisfy their basic survival needs and future generations.
    Selfish pig.

    If you’re willing to apologize for the enslaving of a third of the planet, heck, what’s a few million corpses here and there? Especially if they’re off in that part of the world I don’t need to look at. Let ‘em starve, there’s always some more to experiment on…

    That’s a pretty good description for those like you, apologists for capitalism, market fundamentalists, free trade and globalization worshippers.

    Now those of us who have actually studied philosophy know that Communism is, in essence, a Christian heresy

    Who cares that it’s a Christian heresy? What kind of stupid argument is that !

    The rest of your post is more of the same incoherent baseless affirmations worthy of a severly deluded and paranoid individual.

  341. #342 Walton
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain is quite right on this point: Professor Myers was wrong to serve on a panel alongside Sunsara Taylor, and wrong to write positive things about her in the original post.

    Taylor, Avakian, and this Ray Geming nut on this thread are apologists for mass murder. They are on the same moral level as Holocaust-deniers. Modern-day admirers of Lenin and Mao should be treated exactly the same way as modern-day admirers of Hitler, Franco or Pinochet – as advocates of state violence and brutality against their ideological enemies.

    I’m not saying anything here either way about Cimourdain’s views on environmentalism: that’s simply irrelevant to this discussion. But he is right on this point, and Professor Myers was wrong.

  342. #343 PZ Myers
    April 19, 2010

    I’m surprised at all the people who are indignant that I was on a panel with a Communist, yet aren’t similarly outraged by the Catholic priest sitting right next to me.

  343. #344 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Walton,

    Cimourdain is quite right on this point: Professor Myers was wrong to serve on a panel alongside Sunsara Taylor, and wrong to write positive things about her in the original post.

    Even if that’s true (I don’t know enough about Taylor to judge whether she is an apologist for the crimes of Lenin, Stalin and Mao), that’s not what Cimourdain wrote.

    But he did accuse quite clearly with a blanket statement those who think one can practice morality without God (which means PZ, yourself, myself, and most other readers of this blog) of being apologists for the most murderous system in human history (by which I suppose he meant communism without providing any basis for this claim. I’d say all totalitarian systems are equally bad including facsism, and colonialism is also high on the list, as well as some forms of capitalism).

  344. #345 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    PZ,

    I’m surprised at all the people who are indignant that I was on a panel with a Communist, yet aren’t similarly outraged by the Catholic priest sitting right next to me.

    Yeah, that’s just the supposedely normal mental bias of many people living in the Western world: a communist is automatically identified as an evil apologist for the crimes of communism, but a catholic gets the benefit of the doubt and isn’t automatically identified as an evil apologist for the crimes of catholicism.

  345. #346 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 19, 2010

    “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.” – Archbishop Dom Hélder Camara

  346. #347 Bobber
    April 19, 2010

    the most murderous system in human history

    Slave-based Western capitalism, circa 1400s-1900s?

  347. #348 Cimourdain
    April 19, 2010

    John,

    No, I wrote what I meant and meant what I wrote. The position I describe cannot be held honestly. Someone – like you, for instance – who claims to be motivated by a concern for human suffering but is not given pause by mounds of corpses – that person is, at some level, lying to himself. He’s covering up something he dare not admit to himself, let alone to others.

    I’m surprised at all the people who are indignant that I was on a panel with a Communist, yet aren’t similarly outraged by the Catholic priest sitting right next to me.

    The reason, P.Z., is that you did rather more than that. You defend Communism, and delivered excuses for its reign of horror. Hey, why didn’t you deliver a nice excuse for Catholic child rape too? Something about the “long and important contributions of Catholicism to civilization” – that’d have done nicely. What’s a few excuses for child rape and fascist collusion after what you’ve already excused?

    negen is, typically, lying through his fucking teeth about my position:

    he did accuse quite clearly with a blanket statement those who think one can practice morality without God (which means PZ, yourself, myself, and most other readers of this blog) of being apologists for the most murderous system in human history

    No, I said that because what I quoted was, in literal fact an excuse for that regime. I’ve actually been attacked on this site for supporting the idea that there is an absolute morality without reference to God.

    No, you know what? Fuck this. I’m reminded of Victor Klemper’s comment – about how, in 1942, given complete power over Germany he’d spare every normal German, and even quite a few of the Party – but he’d hang every intellectual in the country, and the Professors three feet higher than the rest. I now know how he felt.

    In the midst of negen’s lies, and cowardly attempts to insert words into my mouth because he doesn’t have the guts to deal with what I actually write, there is one thing that I should expand on more: the charge of experimentation. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the way you keep hearing these effete Western intellectuals shedding crocodile tears over the state of poor Africa while keeping their yap shut about how they make sure it stays that way. And the worst, the absolute worst in this case are the liberal intellectuals. If it’s foisting Mugabe on Zimbabwe, or causing immiseration by closing markets to African goods (which negen supports), or preventing the peoples of Africa from using all that coal, oil, uranium and natural gas (which negen also fucking supports), or preventing the developed world from honoring its obligations to stop things like the umpteenth genocide in the Sudan, or sending the UN to go support mass murders and rape children in Rwanda, the Congo, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Liberia – you simply cannot beat liberal intellectuals for comprehensively fucking up everything they touch.

    A classic example would be Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere. Now, fundamentally, Nyerere wasn’t such a bad guy. He really did have the best interests of Tanzania at heart. He just had the bad luck to listen to a bunch of Western intellectuals who sold him a bill of goods that would get there asses dumped on the streets if they tried to sell them in their home countries. So poor old Nyerere stumbles back to Tanzania without a clue the socialist claptrap he’s been fed is to human society what potassium cyanide is to the human body. Which is why the finest nation on the continent is also its poorest.

    If Western intellectuals had been testing untried drugs on African children, it would have been more forgivable and less evil.

    The greatest antitheist who ever lived, Nietzsche, wrote magnificently about those on whom atheism was wasted, “those who threw away their last shred of worth when they lost the ability to obey”. I see what he means, over and over again. I’d rather take my chances with a small town, creationist fundie than with this.

  348. #349 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 19, 2010

    Now that’s a starfart.

  349. #350 SC OM
    April 19, 2010

    Now that’s a starfart.

    Sure was! Cimourdain’s the perfect counterpart to Geming. A Battle of the Ideologues would be fun.

    No, you know what? Fuck this. I’m reminded of Victor Klemper’s comment – about how, in 1942, given complete power over Germany he’d spare every normal German, and even quite a few of the Party – but he’d hang every intellectual in the country, and the Professors three feet higher than the rest. I now know how he felt.

    [This isn't the first time Cimourdain's brought this up, by the way.] You mean Klemperer, who was himself an intellectual, and he was talking about the intellectuals who were Nazis. You, a rightwing jackass whining on a blog, “now know how he felt”? As a Jew in Nazi Germany? How could you not be ashamed to say something like this?

    I don’t think I’ll ever get over the way you keep hearing these effete Western intellectuals

    And the worst, the absolute worst in this case are the liberal intellectuals.

    Um, you know who that sounds like, right?

    If Western intellectuals had been testing untried drugs on African children, it would have been more forgivable and less evil.

    They have been, idiot. Read Sonia Shah’s The Body Hunters.

  350. #351 Sven DiMilo
    April 19, 2010
  351. #352 Cimourdain
    April 19, 2010

    SC,

    They have been

    Are you really such an arrogant ass that you think I don’t know that?

    As a Jew in Nazi Germany? How could you not be ashamed to say something like this?

    You brush aside incalculable slaughter and human misery and demand that others feel ashamed? Oh, I know exactly how he felt Because, in every time in history, the problem hasn’t been the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos or Pol Pots – it’s been the unnumbered swarm of little sods like you who have allowed them to rise. It’s you and your kind who have, in every time and in every place, been the agar from which those monsters grew.

  352. #353 Walton
    April 19, 2010

    Professor Myers,

    I’m surprised at all the people who are indignant that I was on a panel with a Communist, yet aren’t similarly outraged by the Catholic priest sitting right next to me.

    Hmmm. Okay, I’ve been thinking about this. I shouldn’t have said that you were wrong, per se, to be on a panel with Sunsara Taylor. What I should have criticised was your failure to condemn her morally bankrupt beliefs.

    strange gods, earlier, brought up the issue of the British politicians who served on a panel with Nick Griffin on BBC Question Time. That, in my view, was fine – because they all condemned Griffin as the racist monster he is, before, during and after the panel discussion. They made clear that by agreeing to serve on a panel with Griffin, they were not according any kind of respect or credibility to his beliefs.

    Similarly, you are (quite rightly) regularly critical of the Catholic Church and its beliefs. In light of Crackergate, and of everything you’ve written over the last year, no observer could possibly be in any doubt as to your opposition to Catholicism. So I don’t think there was anything wrong in your serving on a panel with Bob Bossie; you were not appearing to lend any sort of extra respect or credibility to Catholicism by doing so.

    But this…

    I just don’t think she’s entirely right. I don’t like the idea of a revolution led by a vanguard, I’m more of an evolution driven by the education and inspiration of the masses kind of guy…

    I think science and communism are also in conflict, but perhaps less dramatically so. There, we have to point out an empirical problem, that communist societies haven’t fared so well. The concession I would have to make is that communism is a young philosophy, unlike religion, so it can be excused to some degree for being at the start of the learning curve. I find it a little hard to excuse some of the human costs of communism, but then science also has had human costs.

    …is not okay. You “find it a little hard to excuse some of the human costs of communism”? Really? You regularly use (rightly) far stronger language than that to condemn, say, the rape of children by Catholic priests. I’d say the systematic murder of millions upon millions of people, coupled with the millions more who starved to death in famines caused by Leninist regimes, deserves at least as much vocal condemnation.

    Of course, I will add again the qualification that not all communists are Leninists. And if you’d been talking about peaceful anarcho-communists, or any of the other communist schools of thought, I would have no quibble with your comments. But you were on a panel with someone who is a high-profile apologist for Lenin and Mao – a historical revisionist position no less despicable than that of Holocaust-deniers. Saying that you merely find it a “little hard” to excuse “some of the human costs” of her position is just not a reasonable or proportionate response.

  353. #354 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain,

    negen is, typically, lying through his fucking teeth about my position:

    he did accuse quite clearly with a blanket statement those who think one can practice morality without God (which means PZ, yourself, myself, and most other readers of this blog) of being apologists for the most murderous system in human history

    No, I said that because what I quoted was, in literal fact an excuse for that regime.

    I was lying through my fucking teeth?
    Check what you wrote:

    The great strength of religious right has always been to point to people like you – you know who you are – and say, “Yeah, they talk a good case for being able to practice morality without God – but where are they when the chips are down? Apologizing for the most murderous system in human history, that’s where.”

    And they’re right. They’re absolutely right.

    I must have missed something subtle.

  354. #355 SC OM
    April 19, 2010

    Are you really such an arrogant ass that you think I don’t know that?

    Then why did you use the conditional, comparing that to your delusional conception of the reality of what liberal intellectuals are doing? Moron.

    You brush aside incalculable slaughter and human misery

    Show me where. I’ve dedicated many years of my life to working on these in order to help prevent them.

    and demand that others feel ashamed? Oh, I know exactly how he felt Because, in every time in history, the problem hasn’t been the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos or Pol Pots – it’s been the unnumbered swarm of little sods like you who have allowed them to rise. It’s you and your kind who have, in every time and in every place, been the agar from which those monsters grew.

    You need mental help.

  355. #356 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 19, 2010

    Because, in every time in history, the problem hasn’t been the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos or Pol Pots – it’s been the unnumbered swarm of little sods like you who have allowed them to rise.

    Apparently, pulling a Godwin is not enough for Cimourdain.

  356. #357 Cimourdain
    April 19, 2010

    negen,

    Read it. I said that this is the argument that the religious right make, and that they say – now pay attention – that while its theoretically possible to have morality without God, in fact certain prominent atheists have no trouble working without it.

    If my “they’re right” is confusing, let me make it clearer: it’s not enough to say that you can, theoretically, be moral without reference to religion. You actually have to walk the walk. And making excuses for the Communist charnel house isn’t doing that.

    What I did not say is that a lack of religious faith necessarily leads to defending this kind of piffle; merely that, as Nietzsche observed, there are plenty who trade the worship of some immaterial God for the worship of something far worse. And this is precisely why religion persists.

    As I said: Pat Robertson must love you.

  357. #358 Sven DiMilo
    April 19, 2010

    It’s you and your kind who have, in every time and in every place, been the agar from which those monsters grew.

    the fuck?

    And, yeah, cubic Godwin!

  358. #359 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain,

    now that I pointed to what you wrote to support my affirmation, please point me to what I wrote which justifies such baseless accusations :

    If it’s foisting Mugabe on Zimbabwe, or causing immiseration by closing markets to African goods (which negen supports), or preventing the peoples of Africa from using all that coal, oil, uranium and natural gas (which negen also fucking supports)

    NB: I had already noticed that dishonest and baseless accusations were your most cherished form of argumentation, so I’m not surprised with this.

  359. #360 SC OM
    April 19, 2010

    You mean Klemperer, who was himself an intellectual,

    …and a successful one in the East German establishment after the war.

  360. #361 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain,

    What I did not say is that a lack of religious faith necessarily leads to defending this kind of piffle

    Your mind is really twisted.

    I wrote:

    he did accuse quite clearly with a blanket statement those who think one can practice morality without God (which means PZ, yourself, myself, and most other readers of this blog) of being apologists for the most murderous system in human history

    compare this with you saying that the religious right is “absolutely right” in saying that “Yeah, they talk a good case for being able to practice morality without God – but where are they when the chips are down? Apologizing for the most murderous system in human history, that’s where.”

    I’m sorry you think I was lying, but I wasn’t.

  361. #362 Cimourdain
    April 19, 2010

    negen,

    If I mistook you and you are in favor opening Africa up to unfettered free trade & getting the enviros to zip the lip so that coal can be mined and burned, oil refined and used locally, and all the rest – please accept my apologies. Though then I think the onus is on you to explain your previous comments that suggest the opposite.

  362. #363 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain,

    it’s not my fault if you want to say something, but in the process of writing it, your mental capacities suddenly snap and you end up writing something completely different.

    You shouldn’t accuse people of lying for pointing out what you wrote, thinking that you wrote something different.

    As SC suggested, you need medical help. Seriously. It might not be something major but you should get it checked.

  363. #364 Cimourdain
    April 19, 2010

    negen,

    Have it your way. I point out how, in fact a certain kind of modern atheist tends to fall, and how this hands the religious right a powerful argument. You think this is an endorsement of them – your problem.

    But this just illustrates my basic point. You pass over apologia for Communist slaughter in favor of semantic niggling. I rest my case.

    That’s all, a final all I think. I originally came to this blog because I had a good respect for Professor Myers intellect. If apologia for mass murder are the orders of the day, then there’s just no point anymore.

  364. #365 SC OM
    April 19, 2010

    That’s all, a final all I think.

    And the resounding wOOt could be heard across the blogosphere.

    I originally came to this blog because I had a good respect for Professor Myers intellect. If apologia for mass murder are the orders of the day, then there’s just no point anymore.

    Get help. Seriously.

  365. #366 Walton
    April 19, 2010

    As SC suggested, you need medical help. Seriously. It might not be something major but you should get it checked.

    Get help. Seriously.

    I disagree with several of Cimourdain’s remarks in this thread – he went way over-the-top with that rant about liberal intellectuals – but I have seen nothing to suggest that there’s anything wrong with his mental health. All his posts have been perfectly coherent.

  366. #367 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain,

    I wrote:

    One more baseless affirmation from someone who thinks we should just consume and waste as many critical resources as we want without any regard whatsoever for those who aren’t able to get sufficient resources to satisfy their basic survival needs and future generations.

    we = we in the west
    those who aren’t able to get sufficient resources to satisfy their basic survival needs = eg the poor in Africa

    It’s not difficult to understand that we live in a world with constraints on the availability of critical resources and that if we in the west take 70% of what’s available with less than 15% of the population, we’re starving the poor to death.
    And I don’t see how free trade and market fundamentalism is going to change any of this. In a free trade free market system, the highest present supply obviously goes to wherever there’s the highest present demand and availability of funds to pay for it.

    When I say that we must find ways to reduce our consumption and waste of resources in the West, it’s evidently not to force the poor to consume less, but to let a bigger share of whatever is left available for them.

    So when you say that I support African immiseration or preventing the peoples of Africa from using more resources, you are actually saying the contrary of what I support.

  367. #368 negentropyeater
    April 19, 2010

    Cimourdain,

    I point out how, in fact a certain kind of modern atheist tends to fall, and how this hands the religious right a powerful argument. You think this is an endorsement of them – your problem.

    Maybe that’s what you wanted to say, but that’s not what you wrote.

    Oh, and if “they’re right. They’re absolutely right” (sic) is not an endorsement of them, I don’t know what is.

    But anyway, you’re too dishonest to simply admit that you expressed yourself in a very confusing manner and apologize for accusing me of lying. Whereas it shouldn’t be that difficult and you would gain from it. Sad.

  368. #369 Paul
    April 19, 2010

    I disagree with several of Cimourdain’s remarks in this thread – he went way over-the-top with that rant about liberal intellectuals – but I have seen nothing to suggest that there’s anything wrong with his mental health. All his posts have been perfectly coherent.

    You must be new here.

    I know you disagree with Knockgoats often on policy issues, but if you search for past comment threads where both he and Cimourdain have posted, there is more than ample evidence to question Cimourdain’s mental health. This comment thread was the most sane I’d ever seen him, I assume because nobody else has said the word Muslim (I was sure when he mentioned his Islam analogy he was going to go full wingnut, but somehow he showed restraint).

  369. #370 GeorgeFromNY
    April 22, 2010

    Walton,

    You have done yeoman’s work here, but I fear you are shouting down a well.

    I consider PZ a treasure when it comes to science advocacy and keeping a sharp eye out for theocrats, but on the matter of politics and related ideologies, Myers has a blind spot big enough for mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni to swim through.

    Myer’s problem is what’s known as pas d’ennemi à gauche; a denizen of the political Left, he simply cannot bring himself to confront just how bad those on “his” side can be, although he’s Johnny on the spot when it comes to calling out the Right for its misdeeds.

    Contrast the mildness of PZ’s remarks on communism (which you quote above) with his regular – indeed, tiresome – excoriations of Libertarianism.

    Whatever one thinks of Libertarians – I am not one, btw – by what possible coherent standard could one find them worthier of criticism than Maoists?

    Is PZ simply oblivious to what people like Sunsara Taylor and her cult leader Avakian are all about…or he is deliberately NOT seeing it?

  370. #371 John Morales
    April 22, 2010

    GeorgeFromNY:

    Whatever one thinks of Libertarians – I am not one, btw – by what possible coherent standard could one find them worthier of criticism than Maoists?

    By a standard of charity and of egalitarianism, which, unlike Libertarianism, is advocated in their idealism.

    Is PZ simply oblivious to what people like Sunsara Taylor and her cult leader Avakian are all about…or he is deliberately NOT seeing it?

    Do tell, what are people like Sunsara Taylor and her cult leader Avakian all about?

  371. #372 GeorgeFromNY
    April 22, 2010

    John,

    “By a standard of charity and of egalitarianism, which, unlike Libertarianism, is advocated in their idealism.”

    Libertarians can lay just as strong a claim to high-mindedness as anyone else. All manner of political schemes could be defended in the abstract.

    But we’re not talking theory – which is why I wrote MaoISTS and not MaoISM. Ideas have consequences, which their advocates must face.

    Which brings us to Taylor and Avakian.

    “Do tell, what are people like Sunsara Taylor and her cult leader Avakian all about?”

    They’ll be happy to tell you. One of the (few) virtues of such people is their fervent evangelism. They are not shy about what they believe.

    Avakian’s Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has a website, newspaper and a publishing house.

    Happy reading. :)

  372. #373 Ichthyic
    April 23, 2010

    Apparently, pulling a Godwin is not enough for Cimourdain.

    QFT

    Libertarians can lay just as strong a claim to high-mindedness as anyone else. All manner of political schemes could be defended in the abstract.

    indeed that is, and has been, the only way Libertarianism has been defended historically, given that the reality when libertarianism tends to hold sway in public thought inevitably has lead to disaster after disaster.

    reality which current adherents either are ignorant of, or in denial of.

  373. #374 Ichthyic
    April 23, 2010

    Myer’s problem is what’s known as pas d’ennemi à gauche; a denizen of the political Left, he simply cannot bring himself to confront just how bad those on “his” side can be

    just like xians who project that PZ never criticizes Islam, you project he never criticizes the left.

    I suggest you look at the many times he has ripped on HuffPo, for one recurring attack on the left among many.

  374. #375 David Marjanovi?
    April 23, 2010

    I’m back. Comment 286:

    On the contrary, the batle of Amiens (8-9 August) and subsequent Allied advances, made it clear the war was lost militarily once the German offensive of 1918 had failed (if that offensive had succeeded, France would have had to sue for peace, and Britain to withdraw the BEF and continue the war, if at all, in the Balkans and the Near East). Bulgaria was asking the Allies for an armistice, Ottoman Turkey and Austria-Hungary were clearly going to collapse before long, and finally the German High Seas Fleet mutinied rather than sail against the Royal Navy in what was clearly a suicide mission. The blockade made things worse, but even without it, Imperial Germany had lost the war.

    The soldiers in the trenches seem not to have noticed, for the most part.

    Dolchstoßlegende.

    So that would make “Napoleon” Stalin, not Napoleon. But I’ll refer you to the original piece (which contains absolutely no Hitchenesque ranting.)

    Of course, and I read it. I’d just say Orwell saw Stalin as to some degree analogous to Napoleon!

    I don’t think Orwell wanted to portray the October Revolution as a completely unique event. I think he wanted to draw parallels and establish that “it can happen here” ? indeed, in 1984 it has happened here.

    295:

    But testing those predictions relies on the assumption that the universe is consistent enough for the test to be meaningful, and thus doesn’t test the original hypothesis of having a pattern.

    The easy alternative to Assertion of Pattern is Refutation of Pattern, which provides an equivalently valid alternate interpretation: all of that apparent pattern is just an infinite coincidence. You’re picking a particular real number from the interval (0,1], and thus the particular real number you got has zero probability.

    So… methodological naturalism has to be tested against the null hypothesis, and… how can we distinguish parsimony from induction in such cases?

    309:

    well, yes. all politics of that time suffered from braindeadedness and idiotic punitiveness.

    Seconded.

    311:

    One of the evidences that Ludendorff had lost contact with reality at the end of WWI was his belief that Belgium would not object to giving the cities of Lille and Bruges to the Germans “because of the great sacrifices the German army and people had suffered during the war.”¹ He told this to the Kaiser in October 1918 and was shocked when Wilhelm laughed in his face.

    WTF. Ludendorff was even more crazy than the insane emperor!?!

    That’s scary all over again!

    313:

    Wikipedia on LGBT rights in Cuba:

    …oookaaay… I must have confused something. Thanks!

    323:

    Actually, your misremembered claim had some truth in it, since there was an earlier Soviet famine in 1921 which Lenin’s policies aggravated.

    Ah. That must be it, then. (I haven’t read The Black Book of Communism.)

    332:

    And to get a taste for what Avakian is actually talking about here?s a couple quotes, from Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1:

    Fail.

    Dude, your first quote is the longest run-on sentence I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something (I’m in the business of writing them myself). As far as I can even follow what it says instead of just losing attention, it’s just a rehearsal of the usual vague and general platitudes, communism described in a single sentence. None of that is news to me or probably anyone here; Marx could have written it, and probably did!

    Except for sentence length and the disgusting praise for the Cultural Revolution, the same holds for the rest of the quotes. If you have a point, make it.

    (BTW, is your “surname” a pun? Like… “revolution” in Chinese?)

    333:

    In response to the posts calling Sunsara Taylor a ?disciple,? go read what she has to say about taking as a theoretical foundation Bob Avakian?s new synthesis of communism, on herblog:

    You’re completely missing the point. We don’t care whether this particular ideology fits whichever definition of “religion”. We’re saying that Taylor is an Avakianist, and that Avakianism calls for oppressing if not killing people.

    350 quoting 349:

    Now that’s a starfart.

    Sure was! Cimourdain’s the perfect counterpart to Geming. A Battle of the Ideologues would be fun.

    Looking forward to it :-) :-) :-)

    I suggest you look at the many times he has ripped on HuffPo, for one recurring attack on the left among many.

    In fact, the very next post is one of those!

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