Thursday, October 11, 2007 79 Comments

How Dawkins got pwned (part 3)

(See part 1 and part 2, and perhaps 2.5. Chomei at Toyama also may help put you in the right mood for this big downer of a post.)

This week I'd like to discuss some morbidity issues around Universalism.

To review: having made a case that there is such a thing as Universalism, that it is a nontheistic Christian tradition, and that the distinction between theistic and nontheistic traditions is not terribly significant (see also Eric Hoffer, who said much the same thing in The True Believer), it seems reasonable to take a fresh look at the effect of Universalism on present-day society, and to decide in which ways its effects can be described as positive or negative.

We should certainly expect to find positive effects of Universalism. If nothing else, any decent memetic parasite has the trivial positive effect of interfering with, undercutting, and generally destroying any potential competitors. For example, one cannot simultaneously be an Aztec and a Catholic. (Or at least not a good Aztec and a good Catholic.)

G.K. Chesterton had a handle on the trivial positive effect when he noted that when people try to believe in nothing, they often wind up believing in anything. Universalists think they believe in nothing. In reality they believe in Universalism. And this has the trivial positive effect of keeping them from worshiping anything else, such as Baal, Hitler, or Manchester United. Like clean water, fresh air, or a good selection of ethnic restaurants, the trivial positive effect is easy to forget until you find yourself without it.

There are probably other positive effects of Universalism. And we should probably note them when we stumble over them. If only to be fair. However, hiding its light under a bushel is not exactly Universalism's style. Why would it be? So let's accentuate the negative.

In describing the negative effects of Universalism, we're looking for three basic criteria. First, we want to show that the theme is arational, that is, alien to reason. Second, we want to show that it is adaptive, ie, that it helps Universalism (and itself) propagate. Third, we want to show that it is morbid, ie, that it makes bad stuff happen.

"Morbidity" just means "badness." Badness is always in the eye of the beholder. However, an easy way to escape this problem of Hume's ought is to use the standards of Universalism itself. This gets a little tricky when Universalism contradicts itself, but we'll deal. Recall also that, by the standards of Universalism itself, any arationality is trivially morbid. But I'm afraid we may turn up some less trivial morbidities.

If we find no arational, adaptive morbid themes, we can conclude that Universalism is not a parasitic tradition at all. It is actually a symbiotic tradition. I don't think there are any historical examples of a perfectly symbiotic tradition, but perhaps Universalism is simply the first. (It certainly claims to be the first.)

We'd also like to understand the ancestry of these themes. As several commenters pointed out, explaining (for example) that some theme originated in 17th-century England, among some group of people now generally acknowledged as major wackjobs, does not show that it's arational or morbid. But it may help us understand why the theme is so successful. And it often helps to start with ancestry, because it creates a nice narrative flow.

Let's start with what might well be Universalism's central belief, the principle of fraternism. Fraternism is the belief that all men men and women are created born equal.

As my jocular overstrikes indicate, the ancestry of fraternism ain't exactly no Voynich manuscript. Universalism is a generally pietist strain of Protestant Christianity. Pietism deemphasizes ritual, authority, and God, in favor of devotion, equality, and Man. Universalism could be summarized easily as the worship of humanity, and indeed the New Testament is positively strewn with fraternist doxology. I'll go with Occam on this one.

From a theological perspective, there's an easy way to see why all men and women are born equal. It's because they all have souls, and a soul is a soul. There is no such thing as a big soul, a little soul, a yellow soul, a green soul, or a white soul. In fact, to a modern Universalist, there is not even such a thing as a bad soul. All dogs go to Heaven, and all souls are good. (If there's anyone we have to thank for this one, it's Emerson.) If a person does bad things, it is not that his or her soul is bad but that it is in some way wounded, untaught or misguided.

Of course Universalism does not use the word soul. Instead it deploys the word human.

This word human, in Universalism, is what I call a cult word. Its emotional associations are so strong that it's simply impossible to reason around. God is of course a cult word to a theist (and, in its own way, to an atheist - which is why I prefer "nontheist").

If I was writing Professor Dawkins' book, and I actually wanted to convince believers rather than just whipping the choir into a mouth-foaming orgy of hate, I might start by changing the word. One might say: assuming that God is the same thing as Manitou, does Manitou exist? If your reader is unwilling to accept a mere change of labels, he or she is beyond reason. Otherwise, the discussion has freed itself from unproductive emotional reflexes.

Similarly, we can avoid the word human by deploying the precise Linnean term hominid. Or it should be precise, anyway. The paleontologists seem to change its meaning every five minutes. As per La Wik, the current proper term for "bipedal ape" is hominan - which gets less than 1000 Google hits. People! Are you trying to confuse us? Until you get your story straight, I'll stick with hominid as anything in genus Homo.

If the fossil record is to be believed (who knows - maybe all those bones date to 4004 BC, when Manitou instantiated the universe), the past contained quite a few types of hominid whose like is no longer to be found. Which I have to say is a pity. Perhaps they would have made good pets. However, we can refer to the set of hominids now living on Planet Three as neohominids.

A human is a neohominid with a soul. But since all neohominids have souls, the qualification is redundant. So we can restate Universalist fraternism: all neohominids are born equal.

Now, let's evaluate this proposition. First, we need to describe whether it is factual, ethical, or metaphysical. Is it a description of reality? Does it ascribe moral valence to some action? Or is it just a sticky lump of linguistic ambergris?

I think most Universalists consider fraternism factual. Some might say it's also ethical, but I think it's more accurate to say that Universalists consider it unethical to act on or propagate afraternism (disbelief in fraternism). If fraternism is true, afraternism is false, and since it is unethical to act on or propagate a lie, the factual case covers this.

So fraternism is a factual claim. Next we need to consider what this sentence is actually saying. We get neohominids, we get born, but what about this word equal?

An alien might well assume it meant identical. So for example, all black 2007 Honda Civic DXes are created equal. There may be some minor assembly differences, but we would not expect these differences to matter, at least to whoever is buying the vehicle, and we would not expect to see any detectable patterns of difference, except of course for option package, etc. And neohominids don't have option packages - though it would certainly be cool if they did.

However, we notice various differences between newborn neohominids, such as the shape of the nose, the texture of the hair, the color of the poop, etc, etc. So identical is not an option. We are left with the conclusion that congenital differences between neohominids are in some sense unimportant.

For example, perhaps these differences do not affect the neohominid's ability to succeed at various tasks of economic significance. While this was not true in the past, in the world of 2007 most of a neohominid's economic productivity is the result of its central nervous system. Of course, the CNS of a newborn neohominid is not only unproductive, but downright annoying. What we mean is obviously its potential for development. And we can also disregard diseased or otherwise malformed individuals.

So, without I think much loss of information, we can state fraternism as the proposition that all healthy neohominids are born with equal potential for neurological development. Is this proposition rational, or arational?

Whichever it is, Professor Dawkins certainly buys it. He writes (p. 266, TGD):
Thomas Henry Huxley, by the standards of his times, was an enlightened and liberal progressive. But his times were not ours, and in 1871 he wrote the following:
No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man. And if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favor, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried out by thoughts and not by bites. The highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins.
It is a commonplace that good historians don't judge statements from past times by the standards of their own... Had Huxley... been born and educated in our time, [he] would have been the first to cringe with us at [his] Victorian sentiments and unctuous tone. I quote them only to illustrate how the Zeitgeist moves on.
What, exactly, is this Zeitgeist thing? Is it anything like Manitou? We'll return to this fascinating question.

In any case, had Professor Huxley been born and educated in North Korea, he would have been the first to praise the Dear Leader. Had he been born and educated in 4th-century Byzantium, he would have been the first to perform the proskynesis before the Emperor Constantine. Had my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle.

And had Professor Huxley himself been extracted from 1871 - perhaps the Zeitgeist has some kind of supplemental time-travel feature - he might want to know why Professor Dawkins disagrees so confidently - so, dare I say, unctuously - with him. This arrogant, bewhiskered troglodyte, still damp with the ichor of the twelfth dimension, might even dare to demand some actual evidence.

Obviously, it would be easy for us to satisfy Professor Huxley. Once he saw that one out of five Americans drives a Haitian car, that the last two winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry hailed from Papua New Guinea, and that Japan has trouble exporting anything it can trade for Mozambican semiconductors, I'm sure he'd sing a different tune. As Thomas Friedman once put it, back when he had something to say, "a Swiss soldier stole my Syrian watch."

In all seriousness, what is the evidence for fraternism? Why, exactly, does Professor Dawkins believe that all neohominids are born with identical potential for neurological development? He doesn't say. Perhaps he thinks it's obvious.

Perhaps, if he's anything like Cosma Shalizi (and Professor Shalizi is, if anything, even smarter than Professor Dawkins), he believes that there is no convincing evidence that all neohominids are not born with identical potential for neurological development. Similarly, another very smart person, Aaron Swartz, sees no convincing evidence that neohominid males and females are not neurologically identical.

Of course, Professor Dawkins has no convincing evidence that Manitou does not exist. Now isn't this fascinating? Don't you just love these double negatives?

What we have here is a factual proposition which has swept to dominance not through the presentation of any evidence, but by the simple trick of reassigning the burden of proof to rest solely on those who doubt it. It is not the fraternists who have to demonstrate that fraternism is true. It is the afraternists who have to demonstrate that it's false. D'oh!

If I were to claim that the neohominid male liver is functionally indistinguishable from the neohominid female liver - that there is no sexual dimorphism in the neohominid liver - I'd expect someone to ask me why I was justified in making this claim. I would not expect them to accept the response that I see no convincing evidence that my claim is untrue. And this is despite the fact that the liver is not directly involved in the neohominid reproductive cycle. When we replace liver with brain, we have a considerably longer row to hoe. Yet somehow, the Zeitgeist shows up and hoes it overnight. If only it would do the same for my laundry.

If you're actually interested in a positive empirical case for afraternism, let me recommend Thompson & Gray 2004. Bob Williams has also put together a good summary. And it's worth noting that afraternism is Steven Pinker's dangerous idea. Michael Hart's Understanding Human History has to be the worst job of book design in human history, and my general reaction is that Hart understands neohominids a heck of a lot better than he understands history. However, all the cool kids are reading it.

But my concern is not empirical. It is philosophical and historical. What I'm interested in is how and why it came to be the case that fraternism is assumed true until proven false, and afraternism is assumed false until proven true.

One simple answer is that, since we are assuming Universalist ethics, fraternism is the ideal state of the world. My ethics are basically Universalist, and if I had a blue button I could push to institute fraternism - regardless of the actual present state of reality - I'd push it, and I'd feel good about pushing it. If I had an opposite red button, I wouldn't push it, and if I accidentally pushed it anyway I would feel really, really bad.

Thus we can say that fraternism is optimistic and afraternism is pessimistic. But is it rational to assert that optimistic propositions should be assumed true until proven false, and pessimistic propositions should be assumed false until proven true? Not in the slightest. We are back at square one.

One could also suggest a technical explanation, which might go like this: since there is no reproductive isolation between any two neohominid populations, we should expect these populations to be genetically homogeneous. Anyone who wants to make a case for any kind of genetic inhomogeneity, therefore, should have to make it. Perhaps Lewontin's fallacy could be drug into the picture as well, just for color.

However, as we can see by outwardly visible traits such as nose shape, hair texture, etc, the antecedent is false. It's possible that the disparities in visible traits are the result of genetic drift. It's also possible that they're the result of natural selection. But it doesn't matter which, because any evolutionary process that can vary a visible feature can vary an invisible one. (We've recently learned that neohominid populations show substantial evidence of recent selection - much more recent than the divergence of continental gene pools. But even before we knew this, we had no biological reason to assign fraternism the benefit of the doubt.)

Clearly, fraternism did not get the benefit of the doubt in 1871. So at some point it must have changed, n'est ce pas? How, when, and why?

Perhaps Charles Francis Adams Jr. can enlighten us on the subject. As the great-grandson and grandson of Federalist and Whig Presidents, son of and aide to one of the North's leading abolitionist statesmen, and a Union general himself, one might expect he had some opinions on the matter. And one would be right. From a 1913 speech:
Beyond all this, and coming still under the head of individual theories, was the doctrine enunciated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence,--the doctrine that all men were created equal,--meaning, of course, equal before the law. But the theorist and humanitarian of the North, accepting the fundamental principle laid down in the Declaration, gave to it a far wider application than had been intended by its authors,--a breadth of application it would not bear. Such science as he had being of scriptural origin, he interpreted the word "equal" as signifying equal in the possibilities of their attributes,--physical, moral, intellectual; and in so doing, he of course ignored the first principles of ethnology. It was, I now realize, a somewhat wild-eyed school of philosophy, that of which I myself was a youthful disciple.
[...]
So far, then, as the institution of slavery is concerned, in its relations to ownership and property in those of the human species,--I have seen no reason whatever to revise or in any way to alter the theories and principles I entertained in 1853, and in the maintenance of which I subsequently bore arms between 1861 and 1865. Economically, socially, and from the point of view of abstract political justice, I hold that the institution of slavery, as it existed in this country prior to the year 1865, was in no respect either desirable or justifiable. That it had its good and even its elevating side, so far at least as the African is concerned, I am not here to deny. On the contrary, I see and recognize those features of the institution far more clearly now than I should have said would have been possible in 1853. That the institution in itself, under conditions then existing, tended to the elevation of the less advanced race, I frankly admit I did not then think. On the other hand, that it exercised a most pernicious influence upon those of the more advanced race, and especially upon that large majority of the more advanced race who were not themselves owners of slaves,--of that I have become with time ever more and more satisfied. The noticeable feature, however, so far as I individually am concerned, has been the entire change of view as respects certain of the fundamental propositions at the base of our whole American political and social edifice brought about by a more careful and intelligent ethnological study. I refer to the political equality of man, and to that race absorption to which I have alluded,--that belief that any foreign element introduced into the American social system and body politic would speedily be absorbed therein, and in a brief space thoroughly assimilated. In this all-important respect I do not hesitate to say we theorists and abstractionists of the North, throughout that long anti-slavery discussion which ended with the 1861 clash of arms, were thoroughly wrong. In utter disregard of fundamental, scientific facts, we theoretically believed that all men--no matter what might be the color of their skin, or the texture of their hair--were, if placed under exactly similar conditions, in essentials the same. In other words, we indulged in the curious and, as is now admitted, utterly erroneous theory that the African was, so to speak, an Anglo-Saxon, or, if you will, a Yankee "who had never had a chance,"--a fellow-man who was guilty, as we chose to express it, of a skin not colored like our own. In other words, though carved in ebony, he also was in the image of God.
Apparently the Zeitgeist doesn't just work in one direction. What is this Zeitgeist, anyway? Here is Professor Dawkins' definition:
In any society there exists a somewhat mysterious consensus, which changes over the decades, and for which it is not pretentious to use the German loan-word Zeitgeist (spirit of the times).
If we adopt a slightly more literal translation, we could call our mysterious phenomenon the Spirit of Time. And if we ignore the even more mysterious backward lurch from 1871 to 1913, and simply accept Professor Dawkins' interpretation of our Spirit's actions, we see that the Zeitgeist is a basically optimistic force. Its goal appears to be that history turns out for the better (again, defining better in terms of Universalist ethics). Pretty nice to have around the house, wouldn't you say?

In fact, Professor Dawkins' Zeitgeist is so nice that it's indistinguishable from a concept that would have been quite familiar to any member of the Adams family - the old Anglo-Calvinist or Puritan concept of Providence. Perhaps this is a false match. But it's quite a close one.

Another word for Zeitgeist is Progress. It's unsurprising that Universalists tend to believe in Progress - in fact, in a political context, they often call themselves progressives. Universalism has indeed made quite a bit of progress since 1913. But this hardly refutes the proposition that Universalism is a parasitic tradition. Progress for the tick is not progress for the dog.

Whether we call it Providence, Zeitgeist or Progress, the idea of a mysterious force that causes history to flow in some direction - which generally happens to be the right one - is called historicism. Karl Popper is your man on this one.

Needless to say, historicism is profoundly arational. It is also rampant in the West today. You can't open a newspaper without reading some sentence that makes no sense at all unless the Zeitgeist is behind the curtain. Historicism also informs the consensus understanding of the recent past among even the best-educated Westerners today. You have to go back about 250 years - ie, to the predemocratic era - before ahistoricist explanations start to predominate.

(Recently I ran into the most astounding little book, this ahistoricist history of the French Revolution, written by an obscure Canadian historian who appears to be a specialist. Very calm and highly recommended. Imagine that all your life you'd been drinking what you thought was water but was in fact corn syrup, and then someone gave you a glass of actual water. The taste of a good revisionist history is simply unmistakable.)

In any case, I digress. The point is that we've found two thoroughly arational themes in the Universalism complex: fraternism and historicism. Moreover, these are arational in exactly the same sense as the Manitou delusion. They are not demonstrably false. They are just (a) believed by billions of people, and (b) essentially unsubstantiated.

We can extend this list with the two arational Universalist themes I've discussed before, Rawlsianism (also discussed here) and pacifism. And there is a fifth which I haven't yet given its due, communalism (the error of ascribing individual identity to neohominid groups).

I think I've done a fair job of demonstrating arationality for at least the first four. Arationality implies at least trivial morbidity. I think I'll leave the task of showing nontrivial morbidity for fraternism and historicism to the reader's imagination, on which I don't think it makes any particularly onerous demands. If you have any interesting thoughts on the subject, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

However, I haven't really discussed adaptiveness. And, if we want to demonstrate pwnage, we have to show adaptiveness, because arational themes could be in some way accidental or transient, a result of thematic drift as it were. If these arationalities do not contribute to the reproductive success of Universalism, they will probably go away on their own, and they are much less worrisome. Thus describing Professor Dawkins as pwned may be a stretch.

In part 4, due next Thursday, I'll try to tie some of these ends together, and talk about adaptive arationality. Of course hopefully the commenters will have covered the subject completely by then, and I won't have to write anything at all.

79 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I think that both examples of the true progressivism, Liberalism and Marxism, are much more similar to each other than Postmodernism. Both Liberalism and Marxism accepted science and reason, and so could have meaningful discussion (in the West, in the Russia reactionists were shot out of hand, obviously). Marxists had, obviously, a tendence to accuse their opponents of false consciousness etc, but it was, so to say, the larval stage of development. They believed in science, at least.

On the other hand, Postmodernism (New Left) rejects reason and science. We see it at best in Dawkins - the most popular Darwinist of our time, who doesn't dare to believe Darwin applies to men. They are descended more from Freud than from Marx or Darwin. And it is the inverted version of Freud as patented by Marcuse. Repression is no longer necessary - the Millenium is at hand!

The difference between Old and New Left can be dismissed as esthetic only if you dismissed reason, science etc. The New Left is against science. I would suggest the difference is crucial. There is one civilisation which rejected science and reason - the Islamic one. They are not that different from the West - except for that.

Additionally, that version of Leftism didn't become dominant at the end of IIWW. That happened about 1968. Obviously, this has not happened in a vacuum. Sartre in France, Frankfurt School in USA prepared the ground.

Baduin

October 11, 2007 at 4:57 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

Mencius, dude, you made a real mess of this one!

First of all, fraternism as a factual proposition is not in any way essential to universalism -- it is only so essential as an ethical assumption, which is also how I hold it (the jury is still out on the cognitive differences between blacks and whites, though us ashkenazim are undoubtedly superior :))

You have taken one particular far-reaching interpretation of fraternism, and built much of your attack on such an interpretation. That, dude, is what they call strawman.

Secondly, zeitgeist is the 'spirit of the age', not its derivative as 'providence' would be. In order to equate zeitgeist with providence, you equate state with change -- distance with velocity, if you will.

As to progressivism -- yes, I freely admit to unabashedly believing in progress; as in, progress (as understood by me of course) is my goal. You seem to conflate 'believing in' in the sense of striving towards, and 'believing in' in the sense of accepting the existence of. Equivocation is a logical fallacy, dude, for all t at it is a disturbingly effective demagogic device.

That being said, there is certainly a sense in which I, and many others, believe 'progress' to be an accurate description for the overall direction of human development. That sense is scientific and technological. To claim that this belief in arational is patently ridiculous, as the overall thrust of human history demonstrates the steady (in the global context0 technological progress. I can certainly offer hypotheses explaining why this is so (evolutionary advantages of exploiting complexity, non-zero-sumness, etc.), but the key point is that believing historical evidence, and extrapolating from it, is not arational.

Mencius, you have really reached way too far to make your point this time. Way too far.

October 11, 2007 at 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Only blog I've ever been to that requires homework - But I like it :)

Victor, Can you explain to me why I should buy into any ethical assumption that has no basis in fact?

October 11, 2007 at 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

P.S. Victor, by way of example, you talk of "human development" first as if there is such a thing, and second as if it is an unquestionably good thing. Why should I contribute tax dollars to something that doesn't clearly exist and isn't clearly good? Why should I see the tax as anything but a restriction on my personal development?

October 11, 2007 at 8:59 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

I, and many others, believe 'progress' to be an accurate description for the overall direction of human development.

You mean evolutionarily, as in less hair, bigger brains, smaller jaws, etc? Maybe so until the mid-20th c. Right now the trend favors Idiocracy; some progress.

Or do you mean politically? I dunno. History shows a distinct pattern of civilization and barbarism alternating. And it seems that Civ has already hit its peak.

October 11, 2007 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

Victor

Secondly, zeitgeist is the 'spirit of the age', not its derivative as 'providence' would be. In order to equate zeitgeist with providence, you equate state with change -- distance with velocity, if you will.

Providence can be either one, depending on context, but isn't it fair to say that "We believe X, because of Providence" is state, not change? And it's hard to talk about change -- or rate of change -- with beliefs, because at a sufficiently fine-grained level, they're binary. I don't think any Universalist said "Yesterday I believed in segregation, today I believe in equality before the law, so I bet tomorrow I'll believe in affirmative action!" That would be giving information a trend, and that's never useful.

As to progressivism -- yes, I freely admit to unabashedly believing in progress; as in, progress (as understood by me of course) is my goal. You seem to conflate 'believing in' in the sense of striving towards, and 'believing in' in the sense of accepting the existence of. Equivocation is a logical fallacy, dude, for all t at it is a disturbingly effective demagogic device.

That would be true if we weren't talking about 'progress', but it seems to me that, if you're Rawlsian enough, 'progress' is that which, if you believe it exists, you believe it should be pursued. Is there any form of progress (i.e. betterment) that you can think of, but that you think is, uh, worse than what it replaces?

And it's quite possible for us to be advancing technologically, socially, etc., but be worse off. I suspect that most of the good happens in measurable ways (the same money buys a better computer, lifespans have gone up a certain number of years), but that the bad stuff happens 'off the books' -- people are less curious, or less willing to reconsider their premises, or less likely to sustain the ideals that got them so civilized in the first place. Unfortunately, I can't think of a good way to measure that, though.

October 11, 2007 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I can't organize my several objections to this post, so I'll simply list them:

1) I submit that almost nobody believes that "all neohominids are born with identical potential for neurological development." Who honestly believes that Mozart and Britney Spears were born with identical potential? I bet you couldn't find one person in a hundred. The overwhelming majority are certainly much closer to the belief that "all people are equal before the law" or "all people have identical intrinsic worth" or "all people have identical rights" than "all people have identical potential."

2) Public statements on race are not identical to beliefs about race. Moreover, it may be that "Universalists" (even if we define it so narrowly as to only include people who deny significant average differences between races) are closer to the truth than was, e.g., Huxley. While I accept that there does exist an average IQ gap between races, it's nowhere near as large as one would guess from the statements of people from a hundred years ago. Huxley's claim that, "The highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins" has been proven false.

3) How can you hold Dawkins up as speaking for billions of people? Great Britain's population is about 60 million and at least a third to a half of those would take strong objection to most of what Dawkins says. Americans are overwhelmingly religious. Who else cares about him?

4) Suppose you convinced Prof. Dawkins that there are average differences in intelligence between races (assuming he doesn't already believe this.) Would he then stop being a Universalist, by definition? Or is this all a red herring?

October 11, 2007 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

Jewish Atheist

1) I suspect that people have very mushy beliefs. That they've absorbed enough politeness that they really can't say "A is smarter than B" without adding but. Talk to preschool teachers. See if you can get them to talk about their stupidest student without saying "But he has so much energy. So creative." I submit that, except in special cases, it can't be done.

2) Sure, and public statements about sin are not identical to private acts. But if we're analyzing someone's beliefs, I think it's fair to take them at face value long enough to debunk them, and then to ask why someone would believe something false.

"Huxley's claim that, "The highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins" has been proven false."

http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/women_and_minorities_in_science.htm

For some values of 'highest places', Huxley's claim is solid.

3) His moral pronouncements are standard. If you get rid of the god stuff and the evolution stuff, he's just another anti-Bush, anti-Blair pontificator. Although I seem to remember him opposing affirmative action in The Ancestor's Tale.

4) It's a premise that's factually wrong. Dawkins would have to reformulate 'human rights' for a more fluid definition of 'fluid', for one thing.

October 11, 2007 at 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generally, all people mentioned here are some variant of Progressives (whom Mencius calls Universalists), Thomas Huxley included.

Thinking that all people or all races are equally talented is certainly not necessarily connected with progressivism; in fact, historically the great majority of progressives didn't believe it at all.

This strange and obviously false idea belongs to the Postmodernism, or New Left.

As their basic dogma is "There is no truth", and second "The reality is reactionary", the fact that what they say is obvious nonsense is a feature, not a bug. You are to repeat it and believe.

Baduin

October 11, 2007 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 11, 2007 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

I'm elaborating on Baduin's last point here. I think the postmodern fetish for equality is related to a self-deprecating impulse (I'm stealing from Nietzsche). Take the brightest people in a culture, and condition them through repeated (if mild) punishment to never admit that they are the brightest, and you'll get some pretty weird philosophies. That is the effect of the Prusso-American mediocratic education system, no?

Jewish Atheist writes: "The overwhelming majority are certainly much closer to the belief that "all people are equal before the law" or "all people have identical intrinsic worth" or "all people have identical rights" than "all people have identical potential.""

Maybe the majority of the public feels that way (I hope so), but if it were the majority of decision-makers, there would be no affirmative action. (I bang on about AA all the time, but for me it was the loose thread in the sweater of progressivism. Once I realized that progressives would not abandon it or even really question it, I realized they were arational.)

The equality-fetishists use science to try to show that people are all equal, and when that fails, they'll abandon science. People don't feel guilty for being bright, they just feel guilty for being brighter than someone else. The fact that it takes gobbledygook to obscure the fact that they're brighter just lends to their case; postmodernism isn't really supposed to be taken seriously. It's more like speaking in tongues for the secular set. "It's sinful for us to be brighter than everyone else, so we'll write papers that seem opaque and suspiciously computer-generated to say that we're not brighter, so as to cleanse ourselves."

Doubtless Allan Bloom's analysis is better than the above, but there you have it.

October 11, 2007 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

randy

You wrote:
Victor, Can you explain to me why I should buy into any ethical assumption that has no basis in fact?

not a single human ethical assumption is, technically speaking, grounded in fact. The gulf between the 'ought' and the 'is' can only be bridged axiomatically. There are some people who claim that derivation of normatives from factuals, 'ought' from 'is', is possible. Such people have the named like 'Ayn Rand', and people point fingers at them while making silly faces.

It's a long story. David Hume first properly articulated this framework. Check out Hume's 'naturalistic fallacy'. There's been mountains of work done on this thing. However, the bottom line is, the assumption that "people ought to be treated as having equal legal and moral rights" (this is what normative understanding of fraternism is) is on no shakier grounds than the assumption that "people oughtn't be killed for no reason".

If you reject the former as on being too shaky a methodological ground, you ought to similarly reject the latter, at least if you intend to be methodologically consistent.

October 11, 2007 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

pa,

You wrote:

You mean evolutionarily, as in less hair, bigger brains, smaller jaws, etc?

No, I do not. What's more, I made it very clear that I do not, in that I explicitly listed the senses in which I mean progress being the accurate description of the human development over time. Those senses are scientific and technological, not biologically evolutionary.

If you are unwilling to read even the simple literal words i write, why try to communicate at all? You will have much more fun talking to yourself, as you can ensure that you don't present yourself with unduly difficult challenge.

October 11, 2007 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

Victor wrote:
"First of all, fraternism as a factual proposition is not in any way essential to universalism -- it is only so essential as an ethical assumption, which is also how I hold it.... You have taken one particular far-reaching interpretation of fraternism, and built much of your attack on such an interpretation. That, dude, is what they call strawman."

I don't agree that it's a strawman. MM is trying to distinguish between Universalist egalitarianism as cant, religion, dogma, and doxology on the one hand, and a sort of default assumption of equality on the other. The latter is only fair. (Unfortunately MM hasn't given it a name. I'll call it "open-minded humility" until I think of something better.)

It's fine to walk onto a car lot assuming each vehicle has the same features before you have any other information, but if after leaving the lot you have the same conclusion, you probably haven't been doing a very close inspection. What would prevent someone from noticing human differences? Stupidity? Certainly not. Religious discipline? Quite.

"Secondly, zeitgeist is the 'spirit of the age', not its derivative as 'providence' would be. In order to equate zeitgeist with providence, you equate state with change -- distance with velocity, if you will."

MM is tying in a particular zeitgeist to providence. The progressive zeitgeist a big thank goodness, history has continued its inevitable push towards equality! If they thanked God instead of goodness, it wouldn't be secular any more. The point is, why are they thanking "goodness" instead of a specific group of people who won specific political debates? Because they haven't read Christopher Lasch, that's why.

"That being said, there is certainly a sense in which I, and many others, believe 'progress' to be an accurate description for the overall direction of human development."

I don't disagree with you, per se, but I'd like to clarify MM's point. An important critique of progressivism is the bundling of ideas. Sometimes progress means "that which has changed", sometimes it means "that which is going to change", and sometimes it means "changes for the better". Conflating these meanings is a symptom of progressivism, creeping teleology, Whig history, etc. The sense of a "momentum" to history causes weird changes of direction.

A lot of kids grow up believing something along the lines of:
In the really bad old days, we believed that the races were not equal in potential, and thus should not be rewarded with equal socio-economic goods. Then, in the less-bad, more-recent days, we believed in equality of potential, but didn't make an effort to ensure equal outcomes. Finally we have reached a time, through programs like affirmative action, that we back up our belief in equality with legal enforcement of equality. Opposing affirmative action is a step backwards towards slavery. Have you ever encountered anyone like that? Is it worthwhile to account for why someone would believe such things?

"Mencius, you have really reached way too far to make your point this time. Way too far."

"This time"? I don't see this particular series as being too different from the rest of UR. Dawkins is just a case study of someone blinded, by non-theism, to the arationality of his own Universalist convictions. Is it so different from, say, MM's essay on Rawls?

October 11, 2007 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

broadside,

Is it so different from, say, MM's essay on Rawls?

I think so. To put it bluntly, Rawls is a moron (in a very intelligent way, but a moron nonetheless), Dawkins is not. Critiquing Rawlsian political philosophy is like shooting fish in a barrel. Critiquing 'univeralism' is much harder.

Mencius did a good job of the former (though he missed the single biggest flaw of Rawlsian approach IMO), but made a total hash of the latter. He basically ended up constructing his own particularly easily attacked version of 'universalism'.

October 11, 2007 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Victor,

I think the closest thing to a bridge between is and ought is the choices each individual makes in their own best interest. Therefore I distinguish between being aware of one's environment in order to make profitable decisions, and submitting one's will to the group environment because an authority figure said its the right thing to do. So yes, I'm on track with what Mencius is saying. If I'm to buy into Universalism, I want to see proof that it has value to me.

October 11, 2007 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

I was kind of hoping a Universalist fundamentalist would happen along and challenge Jewish Atheist on the first part of: "While I accept that there does exist an average IQ gap between races, it's nowhere near as large as one would guess from the statements of people from a hundred years ago."

Fundies are never around when you need them. They write their books claiming that infidels have mismeasured man (it's a pattern of history!) and then they have to go and die so you can't argue with them. RIP.

It strikes me that critiques of religions usually target the fundamentalists, and that critiques of those critiques usually come from moderates. The latter don't agree with the fundamentalists, but don't regard them as a particularly big deal. They object strenuously to being "lumped in" with the fundamentalists.

That's a fair protest. I'm not trying to make the case that JA or Victor are the most dogmatic Universalists around. The most dogmatic Universalists probably aren't going to read this site, just as the most dogmatic Creationists probably don't read Talk.origins in detail.

The whole thing just makes me wonder how much communication there is between moderates and fundamentalists. In the case of the Universalist faith, why do the latter keep winning on affirmative action?

I guess there's a question about internal motivation that maybe can't be answered in text: Do moderates in general feel more need to debate fundamentalists, or the opposite? Is, for example, JA as quick to joust with the Gouldians on IQ as he is to joust with us on UR? Do Christian opponents of Creationism/ID have as much desire to argue against the fundies as they do to argue with Dawkins? I'm not saying moderate claims that the fundies aren't all the important are necessarily wrong; I'm just thinking out loud.

October 11, 2007 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

What I'm interested in is how and why it came to be the case that fraternism is assumed true until proven false, and afraternism is assumed false until proven true.

What I'm interested in is how and why immigration and multiculturalism and diversity are not only assumed good but asserted good, even after they have produced disastrous results and present us with a predictably horrible future.

Dawkins, like all militant atheists, is an arrogant hypocrite, ridiculing Bronze Age Flying Spaghetti Strawmen believers for their faith, but blind to his own. This is of virtually no consequence compared to the immigration invasion and the anarchy it is producing.

I have no right to ask you what to write Mencius, what you talk about and how you say it are fascinating, but I certainly wish you'd apply some portion of your wit and wisdom to a Part 1-4 concerning the many fallacies of the worldwide pyramid scheme we call our contemporary "economy".

October 11, 2007 at 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What I'm interested in is how and why immigration and multiculturalism and diversity are not only assumed good but asserted good, even after they have produced disastrous results and present us with a predictably horrible future."

You must understand that immigration and multiculturalism and diversity are asserted good IN ORDER TO present us with a predictably horrible future.

The postmodernists think that the Western civilisation is a monstrosity which is to be destroyed for any price. Some are actually extinctionist, who think that that most men should be destroyed also.

"Right now there are just way too many people on the planet. A total world population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels would be ideal."

Ted Turner (CNN)

As to the reasons the case is open; but I think they are mostly the same as Heidegger's.

[http://www.webcom.com/~paf/hlinks/techlinks.html]

Heidegger and technology

The Tragic Double Bind of Heidegger’s Techne
DAVID EDWARD TABACHNICK

"It might be said that Heidegger’s infamous rectoral address, “The Self-Assertion of the
German University,” works from the premise that we have ignored the warning from the ode to
man. Arguably, in our technological age, any sense of limitation has been lost. Rather than a
temporary imposition of form onto matter, human artifacts in the twentieth century are the products
of a permanent imposition, without limitation. In turn, Heidegger calls for the recapturing of the
lost techne, saying that it can and should be retrieved (31). He quotes the words of Prometheus,
“‘But knowledge is far less powerful than necessity.’ That means: all knowledge of things remains
beforehand at the mercy of overpowering fate and fails before it” (31). Heidegger wants us to move
away from an emphasis on the permanent and enduring, which is indicative of our technology,
toward the fleeting and violent character of the techne described in Antigone. Here, we can see
some disturbing implications for Nazi Germany and World War II. For Heidegger, the massive
technological feat of remilitarizing Germany will somehow allow for a return of the essence of the
German ethos or Volk lost in the “technological frenzy” of twenty-first century civilization.5 Could
militarization approximate techne sufficiently to present an opening to the overpowering? It may be
that for Heidegger, while the peril of world war risked the destruction of his homeland, this danger
could have also delivered a greater or more authentic Germany."

Baduin

October 11, 2007 at 4:58 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

Dawkins >> Rawls

I don't remember Dawkins talking much about immigration or multiculturalism. I don't doubt he's on the left on such issues, but I don't have any evidence on the subject.

Mencius has talked about the economy. A recent post was this one.

October 11, 2007 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Is, for example, JA as quick to joust with the Gouldians on IQ as he is to joust with us on UR?

Well, I did defend Steve Sailer in the big Gladwell-Sailer dustup. However, you're not looking at the "fundamentalists" on your own side. There's an enormous group of people who seize on the race-IQ gap as an excuse for all kinds of racism that has little to do with empirical data. Political correctness has prevented much of them from speaking out loud, but it's present in every debate about crime or immigration.

Speaking for myself only, I think the danger presented from erring on the side of "fraternism" is much less than that from erring on the side of racism. We're already in the "worst case" scenario for affirmative action and it's not that terrible. The worst case in the other direction is incomparably worse.

I've never had much use for Gould due to his "separate magesteria" apologetics. I want to believe his argument in The Mis-measure of Man, but I don't trust him enough to have even read it at this point.

October 12, 2007 at 7:42 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

The danger presented from erring on the side of "fraternism" gave us the Reign of Terror and the Gulags.

October 12, 2007 at 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Turning in my homework...

Re; "...the task of showing nontrivial morbidity for fraternism and historicism..."

Very simply, subordination of the rights of the individual to the desires of the believers in meta-community is a slippery slope at best, and quite possibly a direct path to tyranny. Those who believe in the meta-community can't really exercise power directly so they turn power over to opportunists - who, while mouthing all the correct sentiments, gradually tighten their grip.

October 12, 2007 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

broadside,

It strikes me that critiques of religions usually target the fundamentalists, and that critiques of those critiques usually come from moderates. The latter don't agree with the fundamentalists, but don't regard them as a particularly big deal. They object strenuously to being "lumped in" with the fundamentalists.

I think you are right in general; but I for example don't object to being lumped with universalist fundamentalists -- rather, i deny their existence in any significant numbers and with any significant power.

The whole thing just makes me wonder how much communication there is between moderates and fundamentalists. In the case of the Universalist faith, why do the latter keep winning on affirmative action?

While we surely differ on what each of us thinks constitutes a 'universalist fundy', i have never actually met one until just a few months ago. The guy might as well have walked out of a typical right-wing caricature of liberals. he really does hate America and Israel, supports dictatorship, and believes in the superiority of planned economy (he even tried to whitewash Stalin, I kid you not!)

On the political discussion board which we both frequent, this individual is probably the most despised of all posters -- and I made him so. I did think it kinda ironic that the person there I detest the most happens to be some who is supposed to be ostensibly on my side (he certainly self-identifies as a liberal and a leftist).

However, the real point is that while fundy righties abound, such 'fundy universalists' are exceedingly rare. What you consider fundy universalism -- affirmative action -- is, frankly, nothing of the sort. The question with AA is not whether it can be rationally and empirically justified (it can, and with trivial ease), but rather what policies implementing AA would be most efficacious in removing the socioeconomic bias of one's race of birth (which is not the same as achieving equality of outcome across races, note).

October 12, 2007 at 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fundiehood and moderation are perhaps relative terms. From the point of view of a non-Universalist, even the Republican Party is at this point mired in fundamentalist Universalism.

October 12, 2007 at 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Anonymous,

Agreed. I'm thinking that there hasn't been a non-progressive in office since... maybe Coolidge.

October 12, 2007 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

JA wrote: "Well, I did defend Steve Sailer in the big Gladwell-Sailer dustup."

Okay, good. I'm glad you did interpret my questions as a question (after I wrote it I was worried it would be taken as a de facto statement, that you "obviously" would never do such a thing).

"However, you're not looking at the "fundamentalists" on your own side."

Well, I wasn't writing about them in the above, because I thought it was off-topic. I've spent plenty of time at Stormfront, etc., and the ideas of those groups are indeed chilling.

"There's an enormous group of people who seize on the race-IQ gap as an excuse for all kinds of racism that has little to do with empirical data. Political correctness has prevented much of them from speaking out loud, but it's present in every debate about crime or immigration."

I wish there were some way of getting empirical on the question of how many people there are with these views. You consider it an enormous group and I don't. A lot of them write a lot, especially about crime and immigration, but if there views were gaining acceptance you'd think they'd talk about it in person, or on TV, or in movies. The confinement of these views to the web implies something, doesn't it? Again, I'm not trying to be empirical, but if you proposed that Malcolm X and Jared Taylor are more-or-less "equivalents from different races", how do you think you'd be received by the average American who's heard of both?

"Speaking for myself only, I think the danger presented from erring on the side of "fraternism" is much less than that from erring on the side of racism. We're already in the "worst case" scenario for affirmative action and it's not that terrible. The worst case in the other direction is incomparably worse."

I agree with your first and third sentences. I don't agree with your second at all. I see affirmative action as a sort of embalmed specimen from the undead body of Marxism. The point is, Marxism certainly didn't have to die; it died because certain people won important contests.

Have AA advocates ever attempted an actual accounting of "past racial discrimination"? As far as I know they have not. They simply identify the racial groups with the least economic and academic success and assert that this is the result of victimhood. Racial groups with unusually great economic and academic success are punished ipso facto. No one ever openly asserts that success is the result of victimizing others, but the notion kind of has to be in there, correct? If AA were about "remedying past discrimination", we would be quantifying exactly how many spots are robbed from Jews and East Asians by the persistent effects of stereotype threat or evil racist admissions people or whatever.

Since such exact quantification is impossible, we fall back to the much easier task of finding success and systematically punishing it. And I think that principle could be carried much further than it has been.

October 12, 2007 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

Victor wrote: "While we surely differ on what each of us thinks constitutes a 'universalist fundy', i have never actually met one until just a few months ago. The guy might as well have walked out of a typical right-wing caricature of liberals. he really does hate America and Israel, supports dictatorship, and believes in the superiority of planned economy (he even tried to whitewash Stalin, I kid you not!)"

Okay, we just have had extremely different experiences. The above describes at least a half-dozen of my high school teachers, several of my college professors, and more than a few of my friends. (These are the kind of people who stopped talking about South Africa a month or two after Mandela became President - having talked about it constantly for a solid decade or so before that.) I personally met two politicians when I visited the UK - Tony Benn and Ken Livington! That's the anecdotal side of the proposition that the crypto-Marxist left is alive and kicking. The impersonal side of the proposition is UR. If you don't agree, you don't agree, simple as that.

"The question with AA is not whether it can be rationally and empirically justified (it can, and with trivial ease), but rather what policies implementing AA would be most efficacious in removing the socioeconomic bias of one's race of birth (which is not the same as achieving equality of outcome across races, note)."

"Trivial ease"? That's like telling a kid there's a big chocolate cake somewhere in the house, but not telling them where. I've got my paper plate and my flimsy plastic fork, I'm hungry!

October 12, 2007 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I see affirmative action as a sort of embalmed specimen from the undead body of Marxism. The point is, Marxism certainly didn't have to die; it died because certain people won important contests.

I sense this notion that the problem with Marxism was fraternism growing here at UR. I don't get it at all. The problem wasn't fraternism, it was 1) the belief that communism is practical and 2) that it's okay to murder millions, squelch free speech, etc. in order to acheive the worker's paradise. In other words, it was bad economics combined with extreme authoritarianism. Almost nobody in America believes in remotely similar economics, Republican rhetoric about "socialized" medicine aside, and the authoritarianism-libertarian spectrum is orthogonal to the left-right spectrum.

If AA were about "remedying past discrimination..."

It's not. It's about remedying current discrimination and un-level playing fields. Most of its adherents do probably believe a number of empirically false propositions and it may (seriously) over-correct, but that's the idea.

Since such exact quantification is impossible, we fall back to the much easier task of finding success and systematically punishing it.

This is at least as wrong as affirmative action is. You make it sound like we're all living in "Harrison Bergeron" when in reality successful people just aren't "punished" that much. Take college admissions, for example. The lower black SAT average acceptance rates mean that a larger fraction of the lower scoring white/jewish/asian applicants get rejected from the same school. There's certainly a case to be made that this is unfair and possibly unconstitutional. There is NOT a case to be made that this causes very significant harm to whites/jews/asians, especially when pretty much everybody who should go to college can go to a decent college somewhere these days.

October 12, 2007 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

broadside,

Okay, we just have had extremely different experiences. The above describes at least a half-dozen of my high school teachers, several of my college professors, and more than a few of my friends.

Interesting. I have lived in USA for 16 years, first in NYC and then in one of the most liberal areas of Massachusetts, the Pioneer Valley (AKA 'People's Republic Of ...', or Granola Valley).

Perhaps it's just the social circles I move in. I majored in computer science and math, I am an officer at a technology corporation, and never had much to do with the PoMos and the social studies/litcrit crowds. Or perhaps it's just our personal disagreements about what constitutes an extreme self-caricaturing 'liberal'. However, I am very serious here -- this guy I spoke of was the first such type I had met in my entire life. until I met him, I was vaguely theoretically aware that such people might possibly exist, but it was the same way we are aware of cannibalism -- sure, it happens, but it's not something you ever expect to run across.

[AA can be justified with] Trivial ease"? That's like telling a kid there's a big chocolate cake somewhere in the house, but not telling them where. I've got my paper plate and my flimsy plastic fork, I'm hungry!

OK. Let's skip the much longer inquiry into the history of racism. I think it patently obvious that socioeconomic stratification is self-perpetuating, especially in light of America's extremely low socioeconomic vertical mobility, but that's neither here nor there. How about the simple fact that being born in an urban ghetto to a dysfunctional family by itself denies the child many opportunities? and that social dysfunction, just like socioeconomic status, is self-perpetuating? We aren't talking about equality of outcome here, but rather about everyone getting a fair shot. A ghetto kid will have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good, as they say, and the racial discrimination (which exists, it's been well established) is a major part of it. AA therefore is a tool to remove the factors engendering discrimination, or at least to compensate for them.

The real question is, why is AA all about quotas and promoting the less able minority individuals? Or so the republicans would tell you. Of course we all know that Mencius believes the GOP to be The Stupid Party, and him being always right, we can simply ignore the GOP pundits' whining.

Anyway, back to the topic. The question now becomes not of whether AA should exist (it should, to counter extant discrimination, as has always been its purpose), but rather what form it should take so as to allow blacks to have the same range of opportunities as whites do. Notice that I said nothing about outcomes.

October 12, 2007 at 10:58 AM  
Anonymous darrenbk said...

" In the case of the Universalist faith, why do the latter keep winning on affirmative action? "

It's not belief in equality, it's fear of blood in the streets and a sop to a constituency.

October 12, 2007 at 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

JA,

"Almost nobody in America believes in remotely similar economics..."

Actually, a great many do. In fact, the social programs actually put into place by the Soviet Union were remarkably similar to what the progressives say they want to do here. An end to the exploitation of workers by capitalists, an end to unfair trade, equal pay for equal work, free childcare, free education, free healthcare, jobs for everybody, and fully funded retirement.

"...in reality successful people just aren't "punished" that much."

And this is precisely where the Soviet Union went wrong. You see, people who aren't punished "that much" can obviously be punished more. When the idea is more important than the individual, there's always a reason to punish more. The progressives imagine that they will be able to produce the new man without having to punish as much as those clearly evil communists. They're wrong. And they're already laying the groundwork for harsher measures.

October 12, 2007 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

The guy might as well have walked out of a typical right-wing caricature of liberals. he really does hate America and Israel, supports dictatorship, and believes in the superiority of planned economy (he even tried to whitewash Stalin, I kid you not!)
Robert Lindsay?

The question now becomes not of whether AA should exist (it should, to counter extant discrimination, as has always been its purpose)
Whoah, how can any policy simply be said to be beyond questioning? You can't tell the opposition what position they may or may not take, that's letting yourself choose what alternatives are acceptable and then limiting the game to your first and second preferences.

October 12, 2007 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

Victor wrote: "OK. Let's skip the much longer inquiry into the history of racism. I think it patently obvious that socioeconomic stratification is self-perpetuating, especially in light of America's extremely low socioeconomic vertical mobility, but that's neither here nor there."

Oh, man, I bet that chocolate cake is in the living room, behind that enormous potted plant. Is there any empirical measure of socioeconomic vertical mobility we could use to compare ourselves to other countries, specifically the ones that progressives like better? I hear assertions that it is low from the left, and assertions that it is high from the right, and ... not much else.

"How about the simple fact that being born in an urban ghetto to a dysfunctional family by itself denies the child many opportunities? and that social dysfunction, just like socioeconomic status, is self-perpetuating? We aren't talking about equality of outcome here, but rather about everyone getting a fair shot."

How do you distinguish between someone not having an opportunity, and having an opportunity they don't take advantage of because self-identifying as a failure overwhelms everything else? AA advocates talk about everyone getting a fair shot, and think about equality of outcome. Social dysfunction is definitely self-perpetuating, you have that right, but dependence on government can also add to social dysfunction. Beneficiary groups of AA haven't really been helped by it in the long term, and victims of AA have survived, economically. So I regarded it as a bad thing, just a fairly ineffectual.

"A ghetto kid will have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good, as they say, and the racial discrimination (which exists, it's been well established) is a major part of it."

Okay, I'm pretty sure the cake is in the garage, behind that jalopy Uncle Joe keeps promising he's going to fix. Your ghetto kid has free access to the most expensive, mandatory public education system around, he works twice as hard as the average student, he reaps the benefits of massive grade inflation, and at the end of it all he's considered half as good? I don't believe you. This ghetto kid is the type of person who is hunted by half a continent's worth of presitigious universities with several types of financial aid that aren't available to the middle classes (who we just assume are working half as hard?)

"AA therefore is a tool to remove the factors engendering discrimination, or at least to compensate for them."

Those two concepts - removing and compensating - are so different I'm having trouble figuring this out. Are you thinking AA has a genuine chance of reducing actual racial sentiments? As for compensating, well, again I don't know exactly how to distinguish between failure caused by racial discrimination and failure caused by anything else. How do we know we're not "compensating" for a poor choices people make because they feel the need to shore up their self-image? And if we always interpret group failure as evidence of racism, and compensate for it, doesn't that create an incentive for other types of failure, voluntary ones?

"The real question is, why is AA all about quotas and promoting the less able minority individuals? Or so the republicans would tell you. Of course we all know that Mencius believes the GOP to be The Stupid Party, and him being always right, we can simply ignore the GOP pundits' whining."

Well, if we're paraphrasing Mencius, he also likes libertarians a lot, and they severely criticize AA. AA doesn't treat minorities equally, and it doesn't differentiate between minorities based on how much they have been persecuted. It differeniates between minorities based on their aggregate economic/ academic success. I'm not sure who else this may matter to, but it matters to me.

"Anyway, back to the topic. The question now becomes not of whether AA should exist (it should, to counter extant discrimination, as has always been its purpose), but rather what form it should take so as to allow blacks to have the same range of opportunities as whites do. Notice that I said nothing about outcomes."

How do you measure differing opportunities without taking outcomes into account? How do you quantify extant discrimination? Or, without quantifying, how do you make this policy happen?

October 12, 2007 at 12:05 PM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

It seems to me that differences in group averages, whatever they may be, ought not to matter so far as "Universalism" goes. The proposition that we're all equal appears to apply to individuals, and if it is taken to me that all (or even almost all) individuals have equal (or even very nearly equal) native abilities, it's pretty clearly untrue.

On a related note, it's not clear to me how racial preferences are supposed to benefit anyone other than the direct beneficiaries. If Harvard Law admits a few more black students than are strictly justified based on test scores, how does that help some other black pedestrian get a cab?

It seems to me that what the Universalists are arguing for is some sort of group equality. I think somehow it's supposed to be an improvement for members of disadvantaged groups if other members achieve higher status in and of itself, in the same sense that (all) white males are considered to be privileged in our society because the individuals in positions of authority are overwhelmingly white males.

I also think there's some concept out there that groups are or should be equal culturally as well as genetically. For example, I think in some circles it would be considered just as loathsome to suggest that rich nations (or groups within a nation) are rich and poor ones are poor because the poor ones have an inferior culture as it would to claim they have inferior genes. But if blaming the victim is ruled out, what possibility is left but blaming the successful?

October 12, 2007 at 2:01 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

The Universalist holds white men as inherently depraved, with "racism" replacing Original Sin. Hence the Universalist's bedrock premise that blacks are always oppressed by whites, be it through slavery, Jim Crow, white male privilege, or the legacy of whatever.

But I wonder whether someone like Jewish Atheist or Victor would like to be around a lot of blacks during a natural disaster, like Katrina. When they're stomping on him, six on one, Jena-style, yelling "kill the white mothafucka" and jumping and shrieking in all sorst of ways more simian than human, does he wonder whether African-Americans like these individuals are victims of racism, or does he ask himself, while his traumatized nervous system still conducts thought-processes: "did we in fact carry them on our backs all this way, all this time?"

Does the Universalist ever wonder why do all the liberal anti-Apartheit writers now live in New Zealand?

October 12, 2007 at 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Pa:

Most of the stories about violent crime after Hurricane Katrina were exaggerations at best. While there was significant looting and property crime, the number of murders/rapes in the Superdome was approximately zero, the stories of people shooting at aid workers were largely made up, etc. It's possible to criticize the actions of black American citizens, or even make claims about their higher average criminality and lower average IQ (see Sailer, Le Griffe du Lion, etc.), without comparing them to monkeys. This would be my recommendation.

It might be interesting to look into why the (Universalist!) media chose to propagate questionable stories which seemed to confirm the worst imaginable stereotypes of blacks. Nobody ever will, of course.

October 12, 2007 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

Richard wrote: "It might be interesting to look into why the (Universalist!) media chose to propagate questionable stories which seemed to confirm the worst imaginable stereotypes of blacks. Nobody ever will, of course."

I don't know what your last sentence means. Do you think no one in the country's media studies departments has written about this? Does a cursory Google search make it seem like no one has thought this over before? I'm trying to think of an ethnic group that doesn't have the worst imaginable stereotypes about it propagated by the mass media, and nothing is coming to mind.

Hard to imagine someone coming out smelling like roses from an analytical framework obsessed with hate crime, sex crime, crime against children, white-collar crime, and the Middle East.

October 12, 2007 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

Jewish Atheist wrote: "This is at least as wrong as affirmative action is."

My claim that affirmative action punishes success is wrong? Or a claim that it punishes success to a tremendous and overwhelming degree? I never made the latter claim. AA, like a lot of government-by-court-order policies, is a mealy-mouthed jumble that contradicts itself too much to be particularly effective. It's more offensive than it is effectual, which is why I rely on undead symbolism to describe it. Or, to use another metaphor, we don't really stab Asian American college applicants in the back, so much as slap in them in the face.

"You make it sound like we're all living in "Harrison Bergeron" when in reality successful people just aren't "punished" that much."

Oh, fine, I'll Google that later. If it goes on my reading list it will be like 30th from the top.

"Take college admissions, for example. The lower black SAT average acceptance rates mean that a larger fraction of the lower scoring white/jewish/asian applicants get rejected from the same school. There's certainly a case to be made that this is unfair and possibly unconstitutional. There is NOT a case to be made that this causes very significant harm to whites/jews/asians, especially when pretty much everybody who should go to college can go to a decent college somewhere these days."

Oh, well, I can't tell if we really agree here or not. If Thomas Sowell were here he'd probably make an effective case that AA hurts blacks quite directly and significantly, but I haven't read his book yet either.

It seems like a lot of things are national issues with a whole lot less tangible effect than hiring or college admissions. As much as I'm against them, nativity scenes in public buildings seem like one such issue: someone protesting something on its mere unconstitutionality without really showing material harm. Political lines are drawn along pro-clerical and anti-clerical lines all the time (see the Third French Republic). I guess it all just depends on whom you consider a cleric.

I knew few Asian Americans when I was in college, and I know few today, but when a policy slaps them in the face, I'm an opponent of that policy. I may agree with its supporters on other matters, but there were will always be a wedge. That may be a rare enough position that it doesn't matter; as Sailer notes, Asian Americans haven't abandoned the Democrats yet.

October 12, 2007 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

broadside,

Oh, man, I bet that chocolate cake is in the living room, behind that enormous potted plant. Is there any empirical measure of socioeconomic vertical mobility we could use to compare ourselves to other countries, specifically the ones that progressives like better?

Yup. Furthermore, such comparisons have actually been done. The metric in question is the rate of individuals who move away from their parents' socioeconomic strata; e.g. a middle-class kid who becomes a multi-millionaire, or a child born into privilege who goes down to upper-middle-class, or a lower-class kid who becomes middle-class, etc.

See for example Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America.

Now the better question, IMO, is: why do you hold forth with such bold opinions if you haven't done even the most basic investigation of the actual subject? There's been a lot of work done in this field, yet you didn't even know the notion was quantifiable!

You seem to just know, in your gut, that this, that, or the other is false. Truthiness works for Colbert, but he is being ridiculous on purpose.

How do you distinguish between someone not having an opportunity, and having an opportunity they don't take advantage of because self-identifying as a failure overwhelms everything else?

And you really don't think the latter, especially if it's due to socioeconomic background, is itself a failure to provide equal opportunity?!.

Those two concepts - removing and compensating - are so different I'm having trouble figuring this out. Are you thinking AA has a genuine chance of reducing actual racial sentiments? As for compensating, well, again I don't know exactly how to distinguish between failure caused by racial discrimination and failure caused by anything else. How do we know we're not "compensating" for a poor choices people make because they feel the need to shore up their self-image? And if we always interpret group failure as evidence of racism, and compensate for it, doesn't that create an incentive for other types of failure, voluntary ones?

Why does it matter? i specifically stayed away from heritable racial disadvantage question because, as long as AA is concerned only with leveling the playing field (as in, Affirmative Action to deliberately refrain from propagating bias, that's where the name comes from!), it doesn't matter, for the purpose of justifying AA, where the bias came from.

I had refrained from leaning on the very justification which you are now attacking me for not supporting.

How do you measure differing opportunities without taking outcomes into account?

Oh, by, let's say, sending out a bunch of identical resumes, but with some of them containing archetypal 'white' names, and others archetypal 'black' names -- send 'em out, then compare the rate of callbacks.

See, this too had been studied, and in more ways than just the one I outlined above -- but once again, you don't seem to have done even a modicum of work to actually understand the topic.

I am tired of this waste of neuronal activity. I really didn't expect the anti-AA side to have little more than bad cake metaphors in store. I honestly expected better from you.

October 13, 2007 at 5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the stories about violent crime after Hurricane Katrina were exaggerations at best. While there was significant looting and property crime, the number of murders/rapes in the Superdome was approximately zero, the stories of people shooting at aid workers were largely made up, etc.

Nicholas Stix (a Jew, BTW, not a neo-nazi) has a different opinion on this:
http://nicholasstixuncensored.blogspot.com/2006/09/pulitzer-prize-for-deception.html

October 13, 2007 at 5:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more time:
Stix.

October 13, 2007 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Random comments and reactions.

Dawkins just got in trouble for some remarks that had an antisemitic tinge to them. Perhaps he's not universalist enough.

I thought you were going to address the morbitity of Universalism, but you never seem to get around to it. We're just supposed to implicitly believe it's horrible. But, I hold that there is no such thing as a meme-free human mind any more than there s a bacteria-free human gut. Given that, it's not enough to show that Universalism is "arational". We're all arational, even the good folks at Overcoming Bias. So, to make the point you are trying to make, you need to show that Universalism is more harmful than its competitors. Considering its ancestors (religion) that it is outcompeting (according to you), its direct competitors (militant tribalism and nationalism) and its virulent offshoots that mercifully seem to have burnt themselves out (communism), universalism looks pretty damn good to me.

Fraternism is the belief that all men created born equal.
Hm, generally fraternity and equality are considered to be separate but related parts of the great enlightenment triad (along with liberty). So I question your terminology. Fraternity just means that we're expected to treat each others as members of the same (rather large) family. Unrealistic perhaps, but distinct from any of the variant meanings of equality.

This word human, in Universalism, is what I call a cult word.
The Secular Humanist movement more or less makes this explicit. Humanism strives to be a drop-in replacement for religion, binding to the same memetic recptors. But this is just a tiny group of nerds, not a powerful social force.

Why, exactly, does Professor Dawkins believe that all neohominids are born with identical potential for neurological development?

All neohominids are not "identical", and I doubt Dawkins believes they are. He's an evolutionary biologist and variation is one of the basic facts of life. But the core basis of humanism is that human similarity is much more significant than the human variance. The fact that we display some variance in height, color, atheleticism, or intellectual abiliites pales in siginificance to the fact that we are all members of a species that is radically different from other species. So, while our neurological devlopment may not be "identical", we can be pretty sure that all humans who aren't seriously defective will develop language, a complex set of social skills, the ability to use tools, the ability to reason about different courses of action, etc etc -- things which no other animal can do. Universalism is about acknowledging, and even celebrating, this common core.

October 13, 2007 at 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

mtraven,

Re; "Considering its ancestors (religion) that it is outcompeting (according to you), its direct competitors (militant tribalism and nationalism) and its virulent offshoots that mercifully seem to have burnt themselves out (communism), universalism looks pretty damn good to me."

I tend to agree that MM seems to be having difficulty getting around to actually stating what he thinks about the morbidity of Universalism. He does seem to thinks it obvious (and so do I) but I'm kind of looking forward to reading it.

But as for your statement above, I think Unversalism has very much incorporated Nationalism. E.g., WWI, WWII, The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the military industrial complex, and yes, even the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. While today's more radical Universalists try to distance themselves from the nationalist enterprises of the last hundred years, the Universalists were very much responsible for each and every one of them - either through direct control or by the preaching of nationalist sentiment in the indoctrination centers of the Ministry of Education. Nor do I believe that the Universalists have in any way given up on Communism. While they abhor the real world results, they have no problem with the objectives, and adamantly refuse to see the connection.

October 13, 2007 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

"Yup. Furthermore, such comparisons have actually been done. The metric in question is the rate of individuals who move away from their parents' socioeconomic strata; e.g. a middle-class kid who becomes a multi-millionaire, or a child born into privilege who goes down to upper-middle-class, or a lower-class kid who becomes middle-class, etc."

Okay, so assuming the characteristics which move us toward membership in a certain class aren't passed down intergenerationally - assuming each person is identical, more or less - the above measures are useful. In fact they are not measures of mobility, but movement.

"Now the better question, IMO, is: why do you hold forth with such bold opinions if you haven't done even the most basic investigation of the actual subject? There's been a lot of work done in this field, yet you didn't even know the notion was quantifiable!"

Ah, yes, my questions constitute "bold opinions". The notion that a simple question can be so wrong is a hallmark of religious zeal. And how, exactly, do you know what I "know"? Mind-reading? Was that conferred upon you by your universalist god? I'm not sure how class mobility could be quantified. You are. You've done your research, I've done mine.

"You seem to just know, in your gut, that this, that, or the other is false. Truthiness works for Colbert, but he is being ridiculous on purpose."

Okay, I'll Google "Colbert truthiness" later. Whatever.

"And you really don't think the latter, especially if it's due to socioeconomic background, is itself a failure to provide equal opportunity?!."

I really believe self-image is a matter for an individual to deal with herself or himself. A therapeutic state isn't going to help. Plenty of people from low socioeconomic groups have healthy self-images, though they may not be from ethnic groups you care about.

"Why does it matter? i specifically stayed away from heritable racial disadvantage question because, as long as AA is concerned only with leveling the playing field (as in, Affirmative Action to deliberately refrain from propagating bias, that's where the name comes from!), it doesn't matter, for the purpose of justifying AA, where the bias came from."

So if the bias came from a sense that the AA beneficiaries had unfair advantages that they couldn't do without, that's not a criticism of AA?

"Oh, by, let's say, sending out a bunch of identical resumes, but with some of them containing archetypal 'white' names, and others archetypal 'black' names -- send 'em out, then compare the rate of callbacks."

And if I ask you where your information comes from on this matter, you can just say I "haven't done the research". Thus proving yet again that big government is a raging success.

"See, this too had been studied, and in more ways than just the one I outlined above -- but once again, you don't seem to have done even a modicum of work to actually understand the topic."

"Seem" ... hmm. Why don't you just ask if I've done the research? All I did above was ask questions. Asking a question is doing research, more or less. I've read plenty that contradicts your thesis (e.g. The Bell Curve; I've read little that backs it up, and I wanted to know why you felt the way you feel. Or for shame!

"I am tired of this waste of neuronal activity. I really didn't expect the anti-AA side to have little more than bad cake metaphors in store. I honestly expected better from you."

I don't believe you expected better from me at all. I don't believe you have high expectations of your political opponents and I certainly don't believe you have high expectations of apostates

So, providing cites to back up what you've said is a "waste of neuronal activity"? In case you didn't understand, the bad cake metaphors were a response to your vague allusions to references you wouldn't cite directly. Proving AA is a good thing is "trivially easy" if you believe it in the first place. If I don't, I'm obviously not from your church, and can be safely belittled in the same way progressives usually belittle people. What annoys me is that progressives (a) won't admit they're a church, and (b) honestly don't seem to have noticed that they are bullies.

October 13, 2007 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

JA wrote: "You make it sound like we're all living in "Harrison Bergeron" when in reality successful people just aren't "punished" that much."

Okay, I read the Wikipedia synopsis. Sounds like it belongs in a volume with Atlas Shrugged and/or Anthem, The Time Machine, and maybe the script to Idiocracy.

I suppose a lot of this is just in the eye of the beholder. If you don't think the Prussified age-ghetto education system constitutes "that much" punishment for talented students, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Do you feel like public school students are ever afraid to excel (in areas other than sports, I mean)? If so, do you care? Do you feel like a Korean shopkeeper may ever face threats of racial violence? In spite, or because of, Korean upward mobility? Do you feel like bright people are ever ashamed of being bright? Do you ever feel like "die yuppie scum!" is a nasty sentiment, and do you feel like it is perceived as nasty by the mainstream?

The problems I'm describing aren't big enough that America isn't worth living in (I like this country a lot more than George Carlin does, anyway), but they are worth correcting. That's just my feeling. I divide progressives (and every other movement) more or less into those who agree that there are any problem created by their ideology, and would like to change that, and those who don't. I feel like in the case of progressives (and neocons, incidentally) there are a lot more of the latter.

October 13, 2007 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 13, 2007 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

If universalism includes what is essentially its opposite (nationalism), it starts to look more and more like a truly vacuous notion. Does it just mean "allegiance to a group"? If so, then it's too fundamental a part of human nature to wish away or dismiss as a memetic infection.

And in that case, actual universalism (allegiance to everybody) is far preferable to the nationalist/tribalist variety, for what I hope are obvious reasons.

October 13, 2007 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

mtraven,

I don't see Nationalism and Universalism as opposites (though MM may disagree), but rather as points along a continuum. If family is good, then the clan is better, the community better yet, the nation absolutely awesome, and one big brotherhood of human kind simply the best thing since sliced bread. Once you buy into the idea of meta-community you might as well go all the way.

Now, is a brotherhood of man "better" than the tribe or nation? I say no, because beyond the voluntary relationships we establish as individuals, none of it is real, and the farther we proceed into the domain of the unreal, the further we proceed from freedom and the more susceptible we are to manipulation. But at this point, recognizing the value of order, I would have to proceed to formalism. That's MM's territory, and I'll let him take it.

October 13, 2007 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

broadside,

Ah, yes, my questions constitute "bold opinions".

Take your passive-aggressive shit, and try it on someone else. I am not an idiot.

So if the bias came from a sense that the AA beneficiaries had unfair advantages that they couldn't do without, that's not a criticism of AA?

How did you manage to miss the point where i explicitly asserted the fundamental point of AA to be overcoming bias, rather than providing counter-bias? And if you agree that taking explicit ('affirmative') action to overcome bias and result in [racial-]bias-free e.g. admissions or hiring is a laudable goal, then you already agree with AA, and we are just quibbling about implementation. Which was exactly my point.

And if I ask you where your information comes from on this matter, you can just say I "haven't done the research". Thus proving yet again that big government is a raging success.

No, I will just say that this was a major and widely publicized study done recently, and if you hadn't heard about it, you've been living under a rock. Which, to be honest, I would not be at all surprised to find out were indeed the case.

Why don't you just ask if I've done the research?

Why? You already showed that you haven't, by evidencing ignorance even of the fact that such research is possible (specifically, of the quantifiability of the questions at hand).

As I said, don't try this passive-aggressive shit. It ain't gonna fly, hon. The Fox-News-style 'Could Clinton be secretly sleeping with Madeleine Albright?.. Some say...' BS deceives no-one except for those who wish to be so deceived.

I don't believe you expected better from me at all.

Actually i did. In the initial post, i had considered explicitly praising you for making a good point, but i decided that this would sound condescending. Now it seems that condescention would be the best reaction you could hope for...

So, providing cites to back up what you've said is a "waste of neuronal activity"?

No, doing so to someone who obviously hadn't done even the basic research on the subject is. It's about comparable to being challenged to explain the computational complexity hierarchy, only to discover than the challenger barely knows basic arithmetic.

In case you didn't understand, the bad cake metaphors were a response to your vague allusions to references you wouldn't cite directly.

My 'vague allusions' were 'vague' because what i cited is common knowledge among the people who actually bother to investigate the subject. Similarly, I could vaguely reference computational incompleteness while trying to explain computational complexity to you -- doesn't mean I am being evasive, I just assumed that you actually had a fucking clue on the subject.

What annoys me is that progressives (a) won't admit they're a church, and (b) honestly don't seem to have noticed that they are bullies.

In short, you are clueless on the subject you presume to hold a strong opinion on, but it's my fault somehow. Personal responsibility anyone?..

October 13, 2007 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger B. Broadside said...

A+.

Your list of references, a TV comedy and an apples-and-oranges study showing that class movement is less in more ethnically diverse cultures, is lengthy and impressive.

The subtlety of your self-promotion to bishop was excellent. You've taken a defense of affirmative action and insinuated that is the the defense, and proven that anyone who doesn't know you is "clueless" (excellent word choice!) with your tireless use of ad hominem.

High marks for tone. Kicking off your comments with three uses of the word "dude" in a single post was great strategy. Ditto for "hon". And your knowing that the real definition of "passive-aggressive" is "Socratic" ... good stuff!

Your use of four-letter and words and big, scaaarrry phrases like "computational complexity hierarchy" has surely converted countless hordes to your cause. Best of all is the attack on questioning (your reply to TGGP was unforgettable!) Since you know everyone, deep down, agrees with you, any questions about why you feel the way you do are superfluous and downright annoying. While other religions may find it offensive when someone questions their basic assumptions in their houses of worship, as Universalists, the entire world is our house of worship (and ours alone!), so our basic assumptions can never be questioned.

October 14, 2007 at 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

P.S. mtraven,

Re; "allegiance to everybody"

I think you've nailed it with that phrase. It defines the basic difference between the Individualist and the Universalist.

The Universalist observes that there are many people in the world and concludes that everyone owes everyone. The Individualist observes that there are many people in the world and concludes that no one owes anyone.

Which is better? Depends on the objective. The Universalists seem to believe there is an objective, though it seems unfocused, at best, to me. At worst it is simply manipulation.

October 14, 2007 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

broadside said:

I'm trying to think of an ethnic group that doesn't have the worst imaginable stereotypes about it propagated by the mass media, and nothing is coming to mind.

Are you kidding? Maybe you should look into a brain transplant. A "hard-working" "migrant" with "good family values" brain sounds perfect.

Latinos and Muslims get positive stereotype treatment. Any negative impression an observer may get about Latinos (crime) or Muslims (attacks) comes purely from the sheer preponderance of facts. To the extent they can the media uses their editorial latitude to counteract this impression. The more mightily they try the more obvious their manipulation is becoming.

Jews are in a class by themselves. They generally get no coverage at all. And any goy who asks questions, much less says something negative, is tarred as an anti-Semite and ostracized. It might have something to do with their power, but then as the link mtraven supplied above demonstrates, even a famous hero of the left like Dawkins can't say such a thing, even with a positive spin, without being attacked.

October 14, 2007 at 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you've nailed it with that phrase. It defines the basic difference between the Individualist and the Universalist.

The Universalist observes that there are many people in the world and concludes that everyone owes everyone. The Individualist observes that there are many people in the world and concludes that no one owes anyone.


This first assertion is correct, the second one not. An individualist need believe no such

Which is better? Depends on the objective. The Universalists seem to believe there is an objective, though it seems unfocused, at best, to me. At worst it is simply manipulation.

This is interesting; I believe the subject has finally swung back around to question of morbidity in Universalism. The belief in this "brotherhood of man" can be more straightforwardly and effectively be shown to be both 1)arational and 2)morbid than the related theme of "all hominids are born equal".

The most obvious sign of moorbidity and arationality is how it contradicts basic Darwinian truths. Quite simply human beings are in competition with each other, even within the groups of mutual self interest that they form. The idea that you can somehow magically form a complete union of disparate governments, communities, groups, and individuals that will often be in natural opposition on one level or another is the height of folly at best and a suicidal impulse at worse.

Nation building is a difficult enough business. Universalism corrodes the common culture of the nation state from within by means of untrammeled immigration. After all, a Thai is a German is a Russian is a Nigerian is a Saudi! Who's to say one is a better fit for America than the other? And in helping fracture the nations from which Universalism primarily emanates, it damages itself while coming no closer to its utopian goal.

Outwardly, it is impotent against external enemies except in making hapless appeals of a shared humanity and issuing stern warnings. The gears of war require feelings of tribalism or nationalism. Yes, the dreaded "us against them" mentality.

Animals, particularly social animals, are always battling their own kind, in one way or another. Man is an animal, and there is no brotherhood of man.

October 14, 2007 at 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Anonymous,

I see your point that Universalism undermines the value of Nationalism, but why make Nationalism the standard? Nationalism is also a point on the continuum of meta-community - that is, it is just a belief. And it is a belief that undermines real communities, real families, and real individuals. I don't think it is the morbidity of the nation that matters, but the morbidity of real communities, real families, and real individuals.

P.S. I disagree that the second statement (on Individualism) is not true. The belief that there is no default debt is pretty much the definition of Individualism.

October 15, 2007 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I read victor and broadside's exchange with interests until it broke down into typical internet pointsmanship. But it did succeed in getting me to think. Specifically, why does broadside feel the need to attack the data rather than attack the fundamental premises?

A strong sign that we live in a fundamentalist culture of some kind is that fact that it is assumed that everyone should strongly and directly care about the well-being of strangers. And that failure to do so is not a difference of taste or opinion, but EVIL.

If AA took its justification as a pragmatic way of keeping the peace, or getting maximum voluntary value out of interactions with strangers, that's one thing. The appeals to fairness and level playing field and mobility, however, seem like pure fundamentalism.

If I say "some of these widgets seem to have a higher breakdown rate than others, can we analyze why and try to identify those more likely to fail, and then stop using those?" And the reply is "Oh, but some of those widgets come from a very sparse factory, one which is poorly outfitted through no fault of its own, because people unjustly stole equipment from it. Think of how unfair it is to these widgets," my proper response is "I don't care."

The culture screams at us that we *should* directly value the well-being of faceless distant strangers, when in fact it seems that almost nobody actually does. And yet everyone feels the need to pretend to everyone else, and themselves, that they do.

October 15, 2007 at 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Mark,

Re; "...yet everyone feels the need to pretend to everyone else, and themselves, that they do."

Exactly. I see the situation like this; My ability to truly care divided by the number of people in the nation, or the world, is a really, really, small number. In fact, pretending to care probably makes the problem worse by using up a resource that would be better spent caring about people I can truly care about. I think it makes sense to assume that nationalism, universalism, etc., are about power, not caring, and that's what I hear when the propaganda starts to play.

October 15, 2007 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

mark,

A strong sign that we live in a fundamentalist culture of some kind is that fact that it is assumed that everyone should strongly and directly care about the well-being of strangers. And that failure to do so is not a difference of taste or opinion, but EVIL.

Interesting. you seem to suggest that, say, passing by a drowning man and not caring about his drowning, not even enough to toss him a rope lying nearby, should be a perfectly acceptable alternative to caring about the life of a stranger.

Are you fucking serious? And if this isn't what you are suggesting, then, paraphrasing Churchill, we are just haggling over the price.

October 15, 2007 at 7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. you seem to suggest that, say, passing by a drowning man and not caring about his drowning, not even enough to toss him a rope lying nearby, should be a perfectly acceptable alternative to caring about the life of a stranger.

Are you fucking serious? And if this isn't what you are suggesting, then, paraphrasing Churchill, we are just haggling over the price.


One of the more silly and obtuse posts I've ever seen. I didn't realise we were talking about saving drowning men and babies in little strollers caught in traffic.

Saving someone in temporary distress from death isn't even remotely similar to shouldering the burdens of their life.

October 15, 2007 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

victor,

You use the language of the morally offended that I should even suggest that I have no obligation to sacrifice in order to improve the lives of faceless distant strangers. I know you'd reject the "reasoning" used in your reply out of hand were it presented to you.

I honestly invite you to take another pass at it. Why should I so obviously care about faceless distant strangers?

October 15, 2007 at 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Cranky Matron said...

I thought the point was, not that Universalists care about "everybody" but that they care almost exclusively for other Universalists, and that they use "the oppressed Other" as a proxy for furthering the moral righteousness of their religion.

They certainly couldn't be said to care about quiverfull fundamentalist Protestants or traditional Catholics or white nationalists or even Mormons, for instance, regardless of how marginalized any of those groups might happen to be.

Anyway, I disagree that Universalism is impotent in the face of threats from outside. Hang around any of them for about two weeks, and you'll be amazed by how they can get whipped into a frenzy against some perceived threat to the tribe's belief system. There is NO shortage of "them versus us" going on.

It just has to be framed in the right way.

Would today's Universalists willingly and ferociously go to war against Nazi Germany? You bet they would!

October 15, 2007 at 11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Mark, you've cut right to the quick. And here I'd thought this thread was past the point of offering anything new or interesting to think about.

October 16, 2007 at 2:19 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Victor,

Perhaps I just watched the drowning man jump from a high bridge. Perhaps the current is very strong. Perhaps there is no rope near at hand and I can't swim. Perhaps I have a family at home that needs me. Its about choice. I might or I might not jump in. What the Universalists want is to force me to jump in regardless of the circumstances or consequences. What they want is sacrifice - not caring.

October 16, 2007 at 4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What they want is sacrifice - not caring.

To be more precise, they want to administer the sacrifices of others. They personally sacrifice nothing.

October 16, 2007 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

mark asks: Why should I so obviously care about faceless distant strangers?

Why should you care about anybody? Why should proximity, or lack of face, be such a determining factor of who you care about?

randy noted my "allegiance to everyone" phrase and said:
The Universalist observes that there are many people in the world and concludes that everyone owes everyone. The Individualist observes that there are many people in the world and concludes that no one owes anyone.
Well, both are extreme caricatures. In reality, the only absolute individualist is the psychopath, and while some of the people here have extremely dubious opinions I wouldn't pin that label on them. And I don't think any universalist would require us to care equally about everyone, all the time, because that simply isn't practical. (The only person I know who even has a vague pretense to that belief is the philosopher Peter Singer, but even he admits he can't live up to his own ideals). In practice there is a vast space of possible positions between not owing nothing to anyone, and owing everything to everyone. Aside from the various tribalisms and nationalisms, there is always the fairly reasonable and boring option of letting your caringness quotient start at 1 for yourself and immediate family, drop off sharply to a moderate level for friends and neighbors, and keep dropping off as you travel otu the concentric circles of proximity until you reach the faceless hordes of the antipodes, without ever dropping to zero.

Of course, since the antipodes are all instantly accessible by image or internet these days, and you could actually be there in 24 hours if you wanted to, this doesn't actually make much sense. We're all very closely connected these days, and likely to get more so barring a global economic collapse.

If we are genetically tribalists, primed to only care about our hunter-gatherer band of 50-100 close relatives, then Universalism is a response to the fact that we are living in rather different circumstances these days. We've had civilization (cities) for thousands of years, and industrialized market economies for a hundreds of years. Such living arrangements require us to deal with a great many strangers and non-relatives on a daily basis. Radical individualism or radical universalism are both attempts to apply oversimplified rules to this complex situation.

October 16, 2007 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

mtraven,

Re; "Radical individualism or radical universalism are both attempts to apply oversimplified rules to this complex situation."

Agreed. These are the extremes, and there is much room for personal choice. That is why we have law. It seems to me that the default position of the law in the US is Individualist, i.e., that there is no default debt. While it is true that if I earn money I will be required to pay rent (taxes), there is no requirement to earn money. So what happens if the law changes to a more Universalist position? I'd say the Soviet Union is a good example. Mandatory work, mandatory civil and military service, production oriented to the needs of the state, etc. I'd say the real world results of Universalism applied in law have demonstrated significant morbidity.

October 16, 2007 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

mtraven,

In reply to "Why should I so obviously care about faceless distant strangers?"

You ask "Why should you care about anybody?"

Your question seems to be meant to parallel mine, so I want to make sure we are using "should" in the same way in these two questions. My "should" is used in the sense of "obligated to the point where it can obviously be imposed upon me."

So, the answer to your question is "I shouldn't. Nobody has an obvious obligation to care about anyone else they haven't assumed responsibility for."

Note that my statement is NOT proscriptive ("Nobody should care for anyone else."), nor is it even atempting to be a pragmatic analysis of public policy ("It is foolish to adopt policies that enforce coercively funded public welfare.")

It is simply a denial that the ethical statement "I should care for distant faceless strangers." is in any way obviously, universally, objectively true.

October 16, 2007 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

mtraven,

Well, both are extreme caricatures. In reality, the only absolute individualist is the psychopath

Excellent point. that's what it really comes down to, no? In order to proclaim the fundamentalist nature of universalist mores, the anti-universalists have to essentially normalize sociopathy, proclaim it a perfectly acceptable alternative which has been -- alas! -- suppressed by the evil universalist fundies.

October 16, 2007 at 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

An Individualist is not a sociopath. He or she is a person who finds involuntary relationships invalid.

October 16, 2007 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

victor,

In order to proclaim the fundamentalist nature of universalist mores, the anti-universalists have to essentially normalize sociopathy, proclaim it a perfectly acceptable alternative which has been -- alas! -- suppressed by the evil universalist fundies

Well put, yes. And even if you were mocking it, I'll stand by that claim, at least for the moment.

I say that the attitude you call sociopathy is, historically speaking, quite common. Now, that doesn't speak immediately to it being a valid worldview, but I think it does require the side that wants to eradicate it, to proclaim it as evil, to provide evidence as to why.

I think the fundamentalists are suffering from a version of the God Delusion, and can make a good case for it. The only case I've seen for the fundamentalist side of things is that it's obvious. Which is exactly what I expect Delusionary people to reply.

So, again, I honestly ask for the case for why it is that I should be made to care for distant faceless strangers?

October 16, 2007 at 2:28 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

nteresting. you seem to suggest that, say, passing by a drowning man and not caring about his drowning, not even enough to toss him a rope lying nearby, should be a perfectly acceptable alternative to caring about the life of a stranger.
I'm fine with that. I'm not saying I would never rescue the drowning man, only that I feel no obligation and if I did so it would be for my own reasons.

It is also ridiculous to say the alternatives are universalism or anti-universalist sociopathy. It's a broad spectrum that anyone may choose their place on.

October 16, 2007 at 10:57 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

tggp,

Re; "It's a broad spectrum that anyone may choose their place on."

True, but the Individualist is willing to live and let live and the Universalist is not. It bothers me not at all that many believe they owe a debt to some meta-community or another, but it bothers me greatly when they force me to pay a debt that I do not believe I owe.

October 17, 2007 at 4:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, leftist claims that affirmative action is intended to remedy present rather than past discrimination are flatly contradicted by Thomas Sowell. From Affirmative Action Around the World, p. 11:
"No historic sufferings of blacks in the United States can justify preferential benefits to white women or to recently-arrived immgrants from Asia or Latin America who happen to be non-white, but whose ancestors obviously never suffered any discrimination in the United States."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

~「朵語‧,最一件事,就。好,你西

March 6, 2009 at 8:58 PM  

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