Friday, February 28, 2014

Conservatives are fascists because liberals are communists

I've seen this argument happen before: conservatives (at least libertarian-oriented conservatives) point out that, while communists may be liberals... fascists also happen to be liberals. The stock example - and I've used it myself - is to simply point out that the Nazi party in Germany were explicitly socialists, right in their name.

Now, the resistance still happens - and while I think the counter-arguments are wrong, despite there being some interesting rationales in them, I think a fundamental problem is closer to something like this: the commonly acknowledged political sides need a kind of roided-up monster-version of itself. For the liberals, that side is the communists. The communists and the fascists hated each other, ergo it makes sense that the fascists were on the other end of the spectrum, and since the communists are 'extreme left', then the fascists must be 'extreme right'. Left and right, yin and yang - the opposing side, taken to an extreme, must be scary.

Otherwise... well, it's just not fair. If communists are liberals and FASCISTS are liberals, well shit. Liberals are kind of double-monsters in that case, aren't they? Where's the scary small-government, religious-rights conservative example in history? That there may not be one seems unfathomable.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

James McGrath: The Aftermath. Plus, debate lessons.

I think the 'dialogue' with James McGrath is over for now. Those of you who are sick of it, don't worry - I'm just going to do a little analysis before moving on to other things. Still, a few things came out that are worthy of notice, at least for those of you who enjoy engaging in discussion about the gay marriage topic, particularly with those of a liberal bend. Because the fact is? That whole discussion went well. McGrath was caught without having much on his side other than a few sloppy thinkers, bad arguments and a meager at best ability try and paint his intellectual opponents as evil men. I doubt I changed his mind, but I was able to highlight exactly where someone like McGrath is coming from, and why their position is illiberal and bigoted.

This is an extremely long post, so those of you who aren't interested in the finer points of debate may find it completely uninteresting. Those of you who are? You may want to read, because I'm going to try and concisely communicate some lessons about discourse that I've learned over the years.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Amazing Transmogrifying Pastries

More tussling with James McGrath.

And here we have one of the favorite moves out of the Liberal Christian playbook: the ability for the importance of a given issue to shrink and grow depending on what side of the divide you happen to be on.

Are you a Christian baker who would simply rather not supply services for a gay wedding, even if you'd supply them for any gay individual otherwise? Well, then this is a case of 'pastries for Jesus'. You're being so, so petty - just make the pastries and hush up. It's no big deal. It's just a cake!

But, are you a gay couple being denied a pastry for your wedding from a Christian who you specifically tracked down purely to bully them? Then we're talking about a matter of life and death for the gay community, because NOT getting that pastry is a clear prelude to literally being rounded up and exterminated.

Well, it makes sense, right? Because, even if there's an obvious change in magnitude for the same issue depending purely on which side of the divide you're on, it's not as if Christians have ever been persecuted or rounded up for extermination by a government before? Oh, wait....

PS: Check that same thread for James talking about how horrible it is that I'm making the arguments I am behind cover of anonymity, because he'd like to see me be "held accountable" for what I'm saying. Yes, monster that I am, I'm saying that Christians (among others) shouldn't be forced to, in their private business, supply services for an act they're morally opposed to. For that, I'm apparently due some repercussions.

And he wonders why anyone would be anonymous on the internet?

McGrath is quite certain gay marriage opponents aren't acting out of religious conviction

Another swing and a miss from James. He's now falling back to the move of 'I bet these Christians aren't even motivated by religious belief. They probably just don't want to serve gays, but they're more than happy to serve divorcees and polygamists!'

I pointed out the problems with James' reasoning. First off, there is some kind of amazing irony in the fact that the self-described "progressive" Christian, who throws out large parts of the New Testament he dislikes or finds 'outdated', wants to enforce a religious litmus test to determine whether or not someone's religious beliefs are sincere. Keep in mind: James isn't offering to analyze the religious beliefs of the baker or photographer in question and see if their actions are consistent and sincere. Instead, James wants to use what *he* thinks Christians should believe if they're not "progressive" (he'd have to, since otherwise James himself would be marked as an insincere Christian immediately based on his own stances), and if they deviate from that, he'll judge them as insincere.

Beyond that, James' claims that a dislike of gays, rather than any sincere religious motivation, was behind their decisions not to provide a service for a gay wedding is subject to a much easier test: see if the service will be provided to gays individually, or for two heterosexual men marrying each other. This alone is enough to blow out of the water the suggestion that 'dislike of homosexuals' was operative in the service refusal - but this standard won't be adhered to precisely because it's realized that the service providers thus far in question, and likely quite many of them besides, would pass muster. And the goal here is not 'find a reasonable standard' but 'find a standard that results in people who disagree with gay marriage being bullied in every possible venue'.

Will having any of this pointed out to McGrath matter? Not insofar as his reasoning goes - because, as I've said in the past, reasoning and intellectual force of argument doesn't mean a whit here. What matters is McGrath feels a certain way, and "progressives" are chanting with a unified voice, and that's really enough to settle the matter. Point out flaws in their arguments and their reasoning, and you haven't provided a good argument - you're just a sneaky, hateful person who is using tricks like 'consistency' and 'discussion' to try and advance your wicked cause.

Progressivism sure seems a whole lot like tribalism for wannabe cultural elites.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Liberal Christianity: Big on fascism, light on Christianity

Just had a little foray into the world of James F. McGrath - one of those 'progressive christians' whose Christianity seems largely to consist of attacking the dreaded 'conservative Christians' and cozying up to atheist. His post about gay marriage was what drew me in.

Straightaway - his opening image with 'NO COLOREDS ALLOWED' and 'JUDEN VERBOTEN', juxtaposed with a sign reading 'NO GAYS ALLOWED'? Yeah, the 'No Gays Allowed' sign was apparently brought in by a politician to highlight what he insists the effect of the law in question is going to be. This, he cops to in the comments, not the original post - because it doesn't have quite as much punch if you mention it's a mock-up.

I've mucked about in the comments there - largely a dull crowd. Lots of 'you're a BIGOT!' responses, and expressions of incredulity that knowingly supplying tools or services for an act makes one complicit, however minorly, in the act. The most interesting argument was the one arguing that refusal to take part in 'same-sex marriage' may not be discrimination against someone due to their sexual orientation - I managed to bury that claim altogether - but it is 'sex discrimination' because technically a woman can marry someone a man can't marry and vice versa. That's a fatal move for a defender, as I noted, since A) sex discrimination of that variety is far, far more muddied (try to take a piss in a women's restroom as a male heterosexual, and tell me what judge will decide that's A-OK) and B) it gives away the store and concedes that the opposition to same-sex marriage doesn't even need an 'sexual orientation' component. If this were the intellectual group forced compliance with same-sex marriage were being fought on - or, hell, 'gay marriage' in general - the fight would probably be over. That kind of convoluted technicality reasoning doesn't have the emotional pull, not to mention intellectual pull, of 'You are a BIGOT and are HURTING someone just because of how they were BORN'.

McGrath mostly stayed quiet, save for +1ing everyone who disagreed with me - but he did wade in to say this:
I'm going to tackle this in a separate post, but if one of the caterers that wants to discriminate in this way also refuses service to Hindu weddings (others gods are invoked) and divorcees (in clear violation of Jesus' teaching), and specifies this up front in their publicity material, I would be far more sympathetic to their claim to have a genuine religious stance and objection. But are any of the companies in question actually systematically and consistently applying their religious texts' teachings in the way I suggested? Or are they invoking religion now as an ad hoc justification for their disgust and discrimination? In most cases it seems to clearly be the latter, and that just makes the use of religion in the service of discrimination all the more reprehensible.
And my reply:
Let me get this straight. You'd be sympathetic - but only if they agree with your interpretation of their own religious texts? So you're trying to pull out a win here on the technicality of 'Sure, if you object to gay marriage, I'm sympathetic to you not being forced by threat of state intervention and violence to you taking part in this gay marriage by baking the cake. But... only if you're following what I, James McGrath, thinks your religion teaches. And if you're not, then I'm going to determine you're insincere.' 
That's your defense? 
[...] 
Really? Please, provide evidence of this. 'In most cases it seems to clearly be the latter.' 
You just told me that none of the businesses involved deal with people who sincerely believe that same-sex marriage is wrong. Strangely, even the ones who said they are entirely willing to serve gays - they just don't want to take part in a gay marriage. 
But no, you're sure this isn't the case. Which is why you're entirely comfortable with legal bullying of people who just don't want to take part in gay weddings. If they refuse to bake a cake or take a photograph, you think the state should punish them, take their money, maybe even jail them. 
Because 'civil rights'. 
And you don't think this at all sounds a little like some good ol' New Testament pharisee thinking?
The funny thing is, McGrath is a 'progressive Christian', so if anyone's going to be under the gun for being hypocritical and inconsistent in their picking and choosing of Christian religious teachings, it's McGrath. But really, McGrath's concern here isn't consistency, intellectual or otherwise - much less fairness, giving the benefit of the doubt, or treating his Christian opponents as having sincere disagreement.

Nope. They're just bigots, period. And bigots must be hassled, harangued and, if necessary, driven out of the public sphere.

Now, I know various "liberal Christians". I have a few on my blogroll. I agree with them about many, various things, even if I have my disagreements. I believe in finding common ground with sincere Christians of different political and even religious views, and I reject some of the more short-tempered approaches (to put it mildly) that exists among some orthodox or conservative Christians.

But now and then, I see guys like James McGrath - whose role as a progressive Christian seems to be dehumanizing conservative Christians, chiding them, and (now) looking to the state and LGBT jackboots to erase them from the public square... and I have to admit, my blood runs cold. This is why I say that mutual respect, and some common ground, is needed for there to be any meaningful dialogue. With James McGrath, I see no mutual respect, and - despite both of us professing to be Christians - I see no common ground. And it's hard not to walk away with the impression that I am dealing with a man who calls himself Christian largely because he thinks that identification will aid him most in doing damage to those political and social groups and individuals he has a low opinion of.

I am supremely suspicious of any Christian who seems far more interested in attacking and 'converting' fellow Christians, with next to zero interest in convincing non-Christians to become Christians.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Academic Freedom, and other lies

Via Vox Day, a woman opines on the future of academia:
Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”? 
Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue. 
The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do. Two years ago, when former summer school instructor Subramanian Swamy published hateful commentary about Muslims in India, the Harvard community organized to ensure that he would not return to teach on campus. I consider that sort of organizing both appropriate and commendable. Perhaps it should even be applied more broadly.
Make no mistake. She's not talking about a future change in action, as if academic freedom reigns right now, but in the future it shouldn't. This is closer to the standard than all that talk of academic freedom. All she's asking for is to finally drop the mask. Instead of making up a bureaucratic excuse about why this or that 'research' or stance is unacceptable, she would like academics to be open about what they are doing. Don't obfuscate your censorship - stand behind it proudly.

If you're a Christian, particularly of an orthodox or conservative mindset, academia is not - contra ID proponents, even many Thomists - something you should be seeking to change the minds of, or win the approval of. It is something that should be, intellectually speaking, burnt to the ground and replaced. They have outlived most of their usefulness just the same way as nobility has.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Examining an intellectual microcosm: how Christians get suckered

Victor Reppert recently made a short but thought-provoking post about utilitarianism. But what's really interesting isn't Victor's post, but what happened in the span of the debate.

I think the OP made a pretty good point about utilitarian thinking, one that cut to the bone and put utilitarianism (and its defenders) in an awkward spot. The comment thread is now over 50 comments long... but the topic is no longer about utilitarianism.

It's about God.

Here's something I've seen happen over and over: a theist makes an argument, or a criticism of atheist or popular secular reasoning. It happens to be strong. Atheists realize - well, THIS conversation can't be won. So they immediately try to change the topic. The best bet: criticizing God, or the religion of the people involved in the discussion, especially if it has nothing to do with the topic at hand. And it's the best bet because inevitably someone decides that they have to defend each and every slight against Christ or God or Catholicism or Protestantism or what have you, and before you know it the topic is no longer the weakness of a given atheist or secular claim, but Christianity or (worse) Christian in-fighting.

In a word, they get suckered. They go from focusing on a failing of an atheist or secular claim to being on defense. And the worst part is, they think they're helping their cause. After all, look at them - they're defending Christianity or Catholicism or whatnot!

Except, sometimes the appropriate thing to say is 'Your criticisms of God are irrelevant here. We're talking about another subject, and it stands or falls regardless of the truth of God's existence, or your views of His moral character.'

The person who never lets an opportunity to argue against a certain topic slide is killing themselves in terms of effectiveness, because they're broadcasting the fact that whenever a conversation is not going the way their critics like, there's an obvious and immediate out available.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Non-Christian Heresies

I sometimes get the impression that the very idea of a non-Christian heresy is, if not unthinkable, then mostly unthought. Everyone knows how to be a Christian heretic. Vaguely, we can conceive of a Jewish heresy (I suppose you could call that Christianity, from the modern Jew's perspective.) But I've never encountered a Buddhist heresy, or a pagan heresy, or a hindu heresy in fiction. Doubly odd since as far as I know, Buddhism is a Hindu heresy to begin with.

Has any Buddhist ever declared that attachment is, as a matter of fact, better than Buddha let on and that striving for detachment is ultimately a mistake of priority?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Regarding Jerry Coyne...

Courtesy of more tame and humane observations over at Shadow to Light...

But has anyone else noticed that Coyne is, well... something of a pussy?

I mean, I normally don't dip into that end of the foul language pool, but holy hell. Mister 'Jebus' who can't talk about a theistic idea or even personality without lapsing into namecalling, snide remarks, and mockery just lapses into the worst kind of whimpering, 'Why do you have to be mean?' pansy when an atheist or himself is mocked. Especially by a fellow atheist.

Really, check out StL. Look at the quoted exchanges. Dennett isn't even being a quarter of the asshole he is when he talks about dualism or the like. But Coyne is immediately quivering and offended and just the biggest dweeb on the internet in response.

I can just imagine how he'd react if he had a public debate with someone who flat out mocked his supposed intelligence instead of kowtowing to him as chief scientist in charge of fruit fly fornication.

Friday, February 14, 2014

More on Respect for Scientists

So far, I've been having a lot of fun trying to argue the point I tried to make in the previous post. Mostly because everyone is disagreeing with me (at least in some ways), which means I'm in the position of having to make doubly sure I'm getting my points across clearly, and I'm not making an mistakes. This is my idea of a good time.

One thing I want to make clear is this: I'm not arguing for the position that everyone must remain agnostic when faced with an 'expert' claim, on pain of irrationality. Instead I'm arguing for a vastly more modest position, which can be summarized along the following lines:

When faced with a claim about which a person knows nothing or next to nothing, then it's always intellectually acceptable for them to be agnostic about the subject, and this is not necessarily the only intellectually acceptable position. It remains acceptable even if they are faced with expert opinion or consensus.

Let me point out expressly: I am not arguing that agnosticism is mandatory. That's too strong, in my view. Nor am I saying that it's intellectually unacceptable to accept expert or consensus opinion on a matter. Instead, I am - for the moment - arguing for a kind of intellectual pluralism, where multiple responses are, all things being equal, within the realm of reason.

To give an example: Jack and John are told that most cosmologists believe geocentrism has been shown to be true*. Jack accepts the claim 'geocentrism is true'. John is agnostic. Neither Jack nor John have the slightest idea of how to go about determining this for themselves, and both Jack and John are aware that cosmologists study this kind of thing. Both Jack and John are taking a reasonable view. That's not explaining my reasoning, but what I'm concluding and advocating here.

(* For fun, we're placing them a century before Galileo.)

Let's be honest - I have my work cut out for me here. First, I'm arguing that two distinct views can nevertheless be reasonable - not the most popular position to take nowadays. But second, I'm letting John get away with denying scientific consensus, which is pretty high on the list of modern heresies. Worst, I'm doing this as a theist, who regularly work themselves up into a frenzy trying to show how friendly to science they are - so let me say right out, I'm the only theist (indeed, the only person) I'm aware of advocating the views I'm laying out here, and I've done so largely for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or theism.

Either way, on we go.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Respect for Scientists

I have zero automatic respect for academics in general, and the same holds true for scientists. At best, someone's formal education gives me an indication of what they've studied and thought about at length - not a guarantee that they're right, even about topics within their own field of study. That flag alone is useful, since really, it's a piece of paper that says 'This person has studied topics in field X, as far as we can tell' - but it doesn't convey authority in the sense of 'I have to accept this person's beliefs and views about topics in their field as true.'

The only advantage of that formal marker of education is that it gives me a vague guarantee that the person in question has read a good amount of books and done some study/research in a particular field, or at least faked it well enough to stumble through an examination process. And the value of THAT is that it flags someone who I can ask questions, or who presumably has good arguments about or awareness of a particular field. At that point, I read what they have to say, I examine their arguments and evidence, I ask them some questions if they're available for that. But really, what's going on is the same exact exchange I have with people who have zero academic qualifications - I converse, I read, I attempt to understand, and I decide what to believe in light of that. Their academic accomplishments just give me a tip about who may have some interesting things to say. I'm not duty-bound to accept their word as truth.

That last one seems to confuse a lot of people, particularly 'defenders of science.' People have got it into their heads that the last step - analyzing, understanding, and then (horror of horrors) deciding what to believe - is wrong, and that the proper thing to do is 'analyze, understand, and then agree with the credentialed person/group'. In fact, the first two steps are largely optional, so long as you do the last one right. They're the ones who know everything! You're not an expert! You can't trust your own opinions about these things - what do you know?

I can accept this plea for reliance on authority from God or God's Church. God may reveal truths I and no one else can understand, after all. Not so with science, or... any other field, really. The whole point of those fields was supposed to be the intellectual accessibility of their claims. "But maybe you don't have the time to properly investigate them!" you'll ask. Yep, possible. I can be agnostic at that point. But if I investigate and find the conclusions questionable, or unsupported, or not supported to the degree I think is necessary to accept... that's that. It doesn't matter if the source comes from a scientist. Or, for that matter, for a consensus of scientists.

Everything I just wrote seems to me to be not only plainly rational, but almost common sense. And yet I know from experience that a lot of people completely lose their heads when they hear this kind of talk.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stamp a cross on this one, Biff! We need the rubes' support here!

I strongly lean conservative in most of my religious views, and certainly in my political views - or at least I end up supporting positions that you can quickly call 'conservative' at a glance. At the same time, I realize that 'conservatism' is not some monolithic position where somehow there same assumptions and beliefs that get you to 'No gay marriage' also get you to 'Keep taxes low', as much as some people think the two are deeply connected. I'm also well aware that politically, social conservatives and religious conservatives are many times just another political group that has to be appealed to by protectors of interests that not only have little to do with SoCon/religious concerns, but may actually fit poorly with them. And while I get annoyed at liberals pretending that Christ Himself demands Obamacare, I get equally annoyed when it looks like someone is awkwardly trying to appeal to religious right-wingers on the flimsiest of bases.

This article is a good example of the latter. The situation: a conservative condemning an article which advocated for the socialization of law - putting all people in the US in the same situation of having to rely on the same 'pool' of public defenders. No more million dollar defense teams for OJ Simpson - he'll be getting a public defender. And here's the big plea:

Throughout the ages, most religions have rightly condemned envy as a terribly destructive motivator, harmful both to the individual and to the community. The Bible warns of it repeatedly and the thinkers of the Middle Ages elevated (lowered?) it to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins. And yet the modern leftists' embrace of class resentment is nothing more than envy dressed up in the language of virtue.

When someone is talking about the socialization of law - perhaps the one 'industry' aside from national defense where 'socialization' superficially makes a whole lot of sense - and their big play is "tut tut, I believe the CHURCH has something to say about ENVY", my instinctive reaction is "go fuck yourself." I find it hard to believe that the resistance to this idea is borne out of concerns for one of the seven deadly sins - it seems a lot more as if someone is asking "Hmm, how do get the religious nuts on board with this one, because my arguments suck but I still know what conclusion I want to reach here." This isn't a situation where I can point to a serious logical flaw in an argument, because no flaw is really present here. Something about the move just plain smells, and it makes me skeptical.

That's not to say I'm completely on-board with the idea of the socialization of law. For one thing, any such move would automatically result in yet another transfer of power towards the state, which always bothers me. For another, ideally I'd like to see nations where 'socialized law' is in play and if it has resulted in fairness, or just created a new and tasty breed of corruption and bias. But no, I'm not particularly wedded to the intellectual claim that there's something innately right about making it so people with more financial resources are able to more broadly and effectiveness help themselves to justice, whatever that word means once we've decided that some people deserve more of it or a more pleasant version of it if they're willing to pony up the cash. There may be good arguments against the socialization of law, but lecturing appeals to the great sin of Envy ain't it.

Is it just me? You conservative religious who happen to be reading this, please tell me if I'm getting the wrong vibe off Gabriel's piece. Or are you seeing some of it too?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Harming Russia

In 1999, the Russian birth rate was 1.17. The replacement rate is roundabout 2.1, from what I understand. Much like Japan and a good share of western Europe, Russia is trying desperately to increase its birth rate for reasons of economic security, social stability, the cohesion of the nation, etc.

Is Russia harmed by its low birthrate?

Let's say the answer is yes. If so, is it in principal possible to locate social or cultural trends - and people promoting or taking part in this trends - and assign blame to them in some way? Can you say "X is harming Russia / the Russian people"?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dealing with fat people.

Many Americans are obese. Not exactly shocking news, I know - especially since the president's wife has made it her signature mission to try and reduce childhood obesity. You know, the whole Let's Move thing - encourage kids to eat healthier, get more exercise, etc. Pretty basic stuff, not entirely surprising. Yes, yes, I know, she's done some controversial (or intrusive, take your pick) things with school lunches, etc. Put that aside for now, it's not important. The point is that Michelle Obama's main thrust with regards to childhood obesity has been focused on getting children to eat less, exercise more, abstain from unhealthy foods or at least control the intake of them, etc.

Straightforward. Common sense. Nothing new here.

Now for a thought experiment.

What does it mean to be a human when you deny natures and essences?

HyperEntity11 commented, regarding the Dilbert comic:
A law is passed criminalising all instances of heterosexual sex. This 'essentially' criminalises you being born hetrosexual. Perhaps this is unclear to those who have strange background assumptions about what it's like to be human.
I disagree with Hyper, but here's the funny thing about the comment. What is this 'what it's like to be human' talk? I'm the guy who believes in natures and essences, and who thinks such talk actually makes sense. Hyper, to my knowledge, isn't - he rejects such talk. And hey, let him reject it.

But then where comes this talk about 'making it a crime to be born X' coming from? We're just barring an act. Humans have no natures. Sure, they may have inclinations - some of them good, some of them bad. Humans also have capacities and urges to murder, to cheat, to lie - a whole lot of things we bar and ban. No one talks about making it illegal to fulfill human urges then. No one talks about the strange background assumptions about what it's like to be human.

Worse, he seems to define 'being homosexual' by the sex acts. Is that really all there is to homosexuality? Now, I know that's all there is to objections to homosexual acts - it comes down to the sex, not the love.

Edit: And I want to emphasize, I think the law in question - India's criminalization of, among other things, same-sex acts - is a bad law. It's impractical and unwise to try and get the law into the act of covering such acts between anyone, at least in this sense. In the sense of marriage requirements, I obviously think there's a different standard in play - at least for the right societies.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Convincing ideological opponents versus wasting time

I put a great emphasis many times on trying to convince people who aren't already on my side. I like to come up with arguments, analyze approaches, that I think will be maximally effective in getting through to people who are on the fence, or who are even (soft) opponents of the position I'm advancing.

At the same time, I recognize that some people just are not open to any kind of meaningful dialogue - and I'm not just referring to the Cultist of Gnu here. Some people don't ever hit the 'converse' stage and are instead, right from the start, in 'attack' mode. There's no goddamn progress to be had with people like that, at least on the issue in question. So why try? At that point I either bail, or I stick around and mock. Latter one's probably a bad idea in some cases - why alienate people who I may be able to talk with, even agree with, on other topics? In other cases - I'm talking about the left-wing diehard atheist - it doesn't really matter. They don't need conversation, they need a Saul on the road to Damascus experience, and I don't have that up my sleeve.

That said... when it comes to certain issues - social issues in general - I don't think intellectual arguments are really the way to go many times, even with people who are open-minded. At least, not direct ones. I think natural law arguments and various other assorted examples of reasoning are powerful in a logical and intellectual sense, but man, they require a lot of investment just to get some people to understand. Great for someone who likes to spend a lot of time thinking about these things. Few people do.

So here's the puzzle: when your opponents primarily rely on - and succeed with - largely emotional manipulation, caricatures and worse, how do you respond while still maintaining intellectual honesty? I think there's ways to do it, but it requires finesse.

Victory through truncation: Scott Adams Style

Notice the trick in today's Dilbert.

The Indian supreme court invalidated the throwing out by a lesser court of a law against 'crimes against nature'. Aka, same-sex sexual acts, bestiality, etc. The court said that the legislature would have to be the ones to throw out the law - the court couldn't simply invalidate it.

I'm not a fan of the law, for the record. I think those things are unenforceable and counter-productive in way after way, not to mention the punishments are often out of proportion to the crime. The problem is, I'm also not a fan of Scott Adams' trick, where "Law against anal sex" is magically turned into "Law against being born gay!" To Adams' credit, he at least slapped on "essentially" there - but it's goddamn dishonest.

Of course, the Fox News article isn't much better, since it also plays up the law as 'anti-gay sex' - which is a bit better, but from my understanding this covers a whole lot more than 'gay sex'. But at least it's better than what Adams pulled off.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Tyranny of the Aggrieved, Part 2

I'm in the unfortunate situation of believing that the social sciences - and even a good portion of modern psychology - are close to being nonsense fields, while at the same time being a person who is keenly interested in the questions of psychological and cultural change. For instance - what happened in the span of a half decade to reverse the poll numbers on gay marriage? Why is it that a lunatic ranting about how Grand Theft Auto 5 needed a female protagonist now is taken seriously by so many, when half a decade ago they would have been laughed at? What happened? And, more importantly - how did this happen without my noticing it? Why did it hit me so suddenly? Why didn't I change too?

I think I have stumbled on a piece of the answer to that question.