• The Perils of P.Z.

    As many of you will have heard, Atheist Ireland has distanced itself from P.Z. Myers.

    The Friendly Atheist and JT have given good analyses of the situation.

    My colleagues have weighed in too:

    Neatly proving why I am glad to be with part of SIN.  To the rest  – I am really tempted to say: “Took you long enough!“.  Some have know this for a while

    To revisit – again – this tiresome business, let me begin with the lesser of the two perils.  There is nothing like a former addict to warn about addictions, so let me say that – as wretched as PZ’s behavior is – there is no point getting permanently furious at him, or his ilk.

    There is no point for the following reason: a) no matter how much you might wish otherwise, he’s not going to keel over from a blog post, b) there is no chance, none, that PZ is likely to change his behavior, and c) this is exactly what people like him feed on.  There is also a serious danger – Nietzsche’s dictum about “wrestling with monsters”:

     “As you stare into the Abyss, the Abyss stares also into you.”  If you are focused on negating negatives, rather than building something positive, you can start imitating that which you despise.  In my time, I’ve seen people who follow the menace of Islam’s jihad begin to talk in ways that are decidedly illiberal.  I have heard similar things of groups that obsessively monitor racist and fascist organisations, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Crudely put, you get angry at the dishonesty and bad faith being used by a group, it gets tiring to constantly have to take the high road, the temptation of giving them a taste of their own tactics rises, after all you’re the one in the right…

    There is no point here.  PZ is what he is, and nothing will change that.  Hermant Mehta and JT and Michael Nugent others seem too generous for their own good; they seem to hope that, for all his misdemeanors, PZ will come around, will mend his ways.  I simply do not see that happening.  There’s the famous tale of the scorpion and the frog:

    The scorpion asks the frog to ferry him across the river.

    The frog says “Do you think I’m stupid?  I know you’ll just sting me halfway across.”

    The scorpion answers: “Why would I do that?  I’d immediately drown after you died”.

    So the frog complies and begins ferrying the scorpion across the river.  Halfway across the scorpion stings the frog.

    “Why did you do that?” cried the dying frog.  “Now we’ll both die”.

    “I couldn’t help it.” answered the scorpion.  “It is in my nature.”

    As I’ve gone over in considerable depth, this is PZ’s nature.  When he was as rabidly pro-Dawkins as he is now rabidly anti-, his rhetoric and MO were exactly the same.  There is no point in hoping for a change, whether it is the generous hope extended by Mehta et al, or the considerably less generous hope extended by me.

    The only thing one can do is not get close.  The scorpion always stings; it is in its nature.

    Radicalization of the Godless

    Some personal history.  Here we go back a long way, about nine years, to the reason I got involved in the whole atheist/skeptic scene, namely the Mohammed cartoon riots.  That was the trigger, when I started investigating the sheer extent of Islamic fanaticism and cruelty, and the sheer extent of what I found still horrifies me to this day.

    So, trying to find some group of support, some likeminded types who might be interested in a pushback against Islamic fanaticism.  So I found Pharyngula.

    And then I discovered that, rather than standing up to Islamic aggression, PZ caved at the first sign of trouble and smeared those that actually took the risk he was too gutless to do, and that any attempt to raise my concerns just got me called an evil racist Nazi hater who just didn’t like brown people.

    Now, oddly enough, this sort of approach didn’t exactly convince me, nor did it make me particularly well disposed to this brand of atheism.  Funnily enough, being called a Nazi for being worried about people promising the next Holocaust really tends to piss people off.

    That brings me to the bit where I think that PZ – rather, the type of which he is representative – is profoundly dangerous.

    I’ve swiped the title of this section from Scott Alexander’s Radicalizing the Romanceless.  (It’s a fine piece, well worth the read, and if you are not reading SSC, you should start.)  Bluntly, Alexander’s thesis is that the Manopshere is in many ways a responsive to the spiteful nonsense that many feminists, in particular online, spew out, especially at the shy and the awkward.  The result is that a significant proportion of these chaps decide to just go “Stuff it.  If that’s the way they’ll treat me no matter what, then I’ll embrace that identity!”.  So you end up with things like “Fat Shaming Week” and posts like “5 Reasons to date a girl with an eating disorder”

    The situation is much, much worse when it comes to those of us who have faced the reality of Islam and jihad.  The worst someone alienated by feminism does is write some mean posts.  The worst someone alienated by dhimmi atheism may do is…

    Okay, let’s think this through logically.  Imagine an average western liberal atheist, who is more or less committed to all the things that we value: free speech, women’s emancipation, gay rights, all that stuff.  Then he is suddenly made aware of the fact that Islam rejects all of that, and does not hesitate to use violence to do so.  Maybe he finds out about the fifteen hundred girls raped in Rotherham, and how it was covered up out of fears of racism.  Maybe he sees the cartoon riots, as I did.  Maybe it’s another terror attack, or maybe he makes friends with Yezidi, or perhaps sees something about the Islamic slave trade…  Or whatever.

    So he goes online and tries to find out more.  And, believe you me, there are sites that provide more than enough evidence of Islamic cruelty and evil.  TheReligionOfPeace, just to take one example, has a continually tally of Islamic terror attacks:

     


    Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

     If you haven’t gone through it, it is hard to describe the sheer blank panic that induces – the feeling of the bottom dropping out of your world.  On the now defunct ShireNetworkNews it was explained with the quote from the Michael Collins film: “Jesus Christ!  They’re trying to bloody kill me.”

    So, armed with this knowledge, our atheist makes the mistake of raising his concerns online, on the likes of FtB.   And he gets the same treatment I did – get’s called a evil racist fascist monster who doesn’t deserve anything but vitriol.

    So he goes looking elsewhere for people who are willing to support him.  And, sooner or later, he finds them.  Someone says something like: “You see the way you get treated by the liberal establishment?  For nothing more than the best of intentions?  I know exactly how you feel; that’s the way they’ve been treating us for all this time.  Yeah, I know we get called ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’ and all that, but you’ve seen yourself how little that all means.  Why don’t you come over, pull up a chair, get comfy and listen to all these answers we’ve worked out, that will also explain so much else that is wrong with the modern world.”

    And people wonder why explicitly anti-immigration parties are on the rise everywhere, and why Marine LePen may well be the next president of France.

    I never walked that path – I saw where it lead.  But I am fortunate – I saw where it lead because I have the enormous strength of the teachings of Ayn Rand and Nietzsche to keep me clear.  I don’t like to think how things may have gone otherwise – had the only answers I found been, say, a very positive review of Guillaume Faye’s Acheofuturism.

    The thing you have to understand about modern day neofascism is that the people spreading it are absolutely not stupid.  People like Jared Taylor and Gullaume Faye are exceptionally intelligent and well spoke, calm and precise, and show considerable more personal decency in their rhetoric than, to take an example at random, PZ.  Faye in particular scares me in a way that’s hard to describe.

    To return to PZ’s ilk, you have to be clear about how thoroughly useless and counterproductive cowardice is, especially when it is coupled with a big mouth and a bully’s pretension.  There’s a point about the famous “Dear Muslima… ” comment that isn’t stressed enough.  Part of the reason all the faux feminism of FtB is so tiresome is that I know that it is utterly dependent on my own decency.  If I were to run across them – e.g. due to my defense of Shermer – I’m likely to get called a rapist, rapist defender, misogynist, oh, and a rapist too .

    But there is one thing I could do to cause all of those accusations to go away: convert to Islam.  I’m not saying that I will, I’m saying that all I’d need to do is pop down to the local mosque, recite the Shahada, and then I could explicitly say that women were inherently inferior, deserved subjection, that the man’s place is to rule – and I would be completely assured of having Myers, Benson et al not just shut up and say nothing, but most likely defend me, grovel and lick my boots.  What the Myers tendency announces, loudly, is that he will be maximally mean to anyone who is inoffensive.  But anyone who really decides to earn his stripes, to be a real menace – well, he can be assured of complete indeminity.

    Do you see how dangerous this is?

    (Incidentally, that is the reason behind so many people calling western feminists on their double standards.   It isn’t about defending this or that comment of Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins; it is about thinking that feminists should not be focusing orders of magnitude more hatred on Harris and Dawkins than on the Islamic State.  Which is the situation at the moment.)

    Alexander quotes the following story to illustrate the rise of the manosphere:

    Chen Sheng was an officer serving the Qin Dynasty, famous for their draconian punishments. He was supposed to lead his army to a rendezvous point, but he got delayed by heavy rains and it became clear he was going to arrive late. The way I always hear the story told is this:

    Chen turns to his friend Wu Guang and asks “What’s the penalty for being late?”

    “Death,” says Wu.

    “And what’s the penalty for rebellion?”

    “Death,” says Wu.

    “Well then…” says Chen Sheng.

    And thus began the famous Dazexiang Uprising, which caused thousands of deaths and helped usher in a period of instability and chaos that resulted in the fall of the Qin Dynasty three years later.

    But  the situation is actually WAY worse here.  It’s closer to a situation that the penalty for being late is death and the penalty for rebellion is – at least being left alone, and most likely being established as a power.

    When you start making excuses for violence and cruelty, you have to expect that other people decide to get in on that action.  Breivik is the obvious example, but look at this:

    That’s HoGeSA – Hooligans Against Salafists, described as the biggest far-right gathering in Germany since the ‘thirties.  Do you think anyone in that group is discombobulated, even slightly, by the sort of antics PZ’s become famous for?

    In conclusion – what I’m here for

    This is the big, the main reason that I blog.  I see a lot of people who are on a slow burn about these issues.  They are looking for answers, and I just hope that I can get some of them some answers that do not lead them down a very dark path.  That is the best that can be hoped for, and it is something made immeasurably more difficult by the FtB crowd.

    Category: atheismIslamJihadSkepticism

    Article by: The Prussian

    2 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

    • Outwest

      Excellent piece. All of you on this network have, in your own way, nailed the “problem”.

      • ThePrussian

        Thank you :)

    • Dirk

      Two belly laughs here. 1) “the enormous strength of the teachings of Ayn Rand” and 2) the linked article where an involuntary celibate whines at length about the nice guy stereotype.
      Grow up.

      • ThePrussian

        Always glad to provide amusement. :) Now, do you have a substantial point to make?

    • Shang Tsung

      “I never walked that path – I saw where it lead. But I am fortunate – I saw where it lead because I have the enormous strength of the teachings of Ayn Rand and Nietzsche to keep me clear.”

      The philosophy store called, it wanted to know if you were interested in trading up for one of the non-recalled models.

      • ThePrussian

        I tend to take gratuitous insults with no factual content as flattery. Now: do you have any actual point to make?

        • Shang Tsung

          That Ayn Rand’s philosophy is junior high garbage, completely non-predictive of human behaviour, and only a simpleton would view it as having ‘enormous strength’? I thought that was clear, but maybe I should have written in the form of a 45 minute speech filled with pop-psychology and baby’s first faux-gender theory because that’s what seems to work for you.

          • ThePrussian

            Have you ever heard the concept of “petition principi”, or “begging the question”? No? Well, I’ll make it simple for you: it is a classic logical fallacy to assume that which has to be proven. That doesn’t change because you happen to be a vulgar loudmouth.

    • Euniana

      This would be such a great article without the gratuitous plug for Ayn Rand.

      • ThePrussian

        Well – please feel free to write your own then.

        I find this bizarre. There’s a half sentence reference to Ayn Rand there, and that is all so many commentators seem to focus on.

    • im-skeptical

      I agree with what I’ve heard you say about Sam Harris, but it seems he’s no fan of Ayn Rand, either.

      http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-lose-readers-without-even-trying/

      • ThePrussian

        Sam Harris is a very good thinker, and that article is well worth reading. Except – as he says, he hasn’t even bothered to read Ayn Rand. And it shows. For example, you would not know to read that piece that right at the very heart of Objectivism is the idea that morality is indeed absolute, that you should treat your fellow man with justice and honesty and benevolence. You would not know from reading it that the majority of businessmen in Rand’s books are villains, or that Rand thought that only living for the sake of money makes you a vile and worthless person.

        I have this bet. A rather sweet prize goes to the first person who I find who manages to accurately present her views and still disagree with them. It’s gone completely unclaimed for years.

        • im-skeptical

          “And Rand’s attempt to make literature out of this awful philosophy
          produced some commensurately terrible writing. Even in high school, I
          found that my copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged simply would not open.”

          Harris didn’t say he didn’t read it. He said it was terrible.

          And if, as you say, Rand’s objectivism advocates benevolence toward your fellow man, why do the Rand followers in our congress advocate elimination of Social Security and other programs that help people in need, and instead advocate eliminating taxes for the very wealthy, so they won’t have to part with any of their riches for the benefit of others? These people cite Ayn Rand as the inspiration for their politics of selfishness.

          • ThePrussian

            {“Harris didn’t say he didn’t read it” He did. Including in my chats with the man.
            As to the second bit – yes, because “justice” and benevolence is the same thing as taking money from one group by force to spend as you see fit. I don’t have the time to talk you the whole of her philosophy. If you are genuinely interested, read Atlas Shrugged.

        • Richard Taylor
          • ThePrussian

            They’re vacuous. Seriously, what is it about Ayn Rand that makes people unable to accurately represent and describe her philosophy?

        • Euniana

          So are you saying the Ayn Rand Institute got it wrong whereas you got it right? Its longtime president, Yaron Brook, has argued for war on Iran, suggested flattening Fallujah in Iraq during the insurgency to frighten the people into compliance, denied climate change, and considered regulation of corporate accounting practices immoral. I hope you would agree that most if not all of these are objectionable views.

          Why don’t you accurately present Ayn Rand’s views so we can be guided to their true interpretation?

          • ThePrussian

            Well, no, I would not consider those immoral. To take that in reverse order, re:business regulation, imagine you’re in a small town, and there’s only one baker. He charges whatever he wants because you can’t get the bread elsewhere. You decide to open another bakery to compete. Now he doesn’t like that, so he picks up a gun and threatens you to stop. Is that okay? Alright, so maybe he gets the local mafia or street gang to threaten you to stop. Is that okay? Okay, so he doesn’t do either of those things, just gets 51% of the people in the town to vote to threaten to stop you. That’s business regulation. (I really do not have the time to go into the difference between law and regulation in more detail here).

            In Climate Change, it is worth looking up what he said. He said, explicitly, that he wasn’t a scientist, but he didn’t believe the stories of total Armageddon because of the number of doomsday scenarios like that one he had heard from the same quarter: overpopulation (remember that?), global cooling etc. And here’s the thing: the Armageddon scenarios you hear in the popular press really are not supported by the science. It’s not at all irrational – much less immoral! – to doubt something when the proof presented for it is such crap. (Again, the proof presented to the layman in the popular press, distinct from what the actual science says).

            To Fallujah then. Firstly, Brook was against going into Iraq. But having gone in there, he pointed out that it was not right, not moral to order US troops that had been sent their to die unnecessarily, to die to for no reason other than to play nice with Islam. His comment, in full, was “flattening Fallujah to end the Iraqi insurgency will save American lives, to refrain from [doing so] is morally evil.”

            Oh, and for the record, when the British practiced that policy, they took Iraq with only six thousand casualties, as opposed to the hundred thousand plus that resulted from the policy Yaron was criticizing. And, again, Yaron was against the US going into Iraq in the first place, something in line with Ayn Rand’s own opposition to, e.g., Korea, Vietnam, _both_ World Wars, not to mention the ARI’s opposition to interventions in Kosovo etc.

            Now as a matter of courtesy, please do not accuse me of misrepresenting Rand and her views, especially if you have not read those for yourself. And also please explain the following: why is it, when Rand gets only a passing mention, that everyone only reacts to that? Why is she so unnerving to you?

            • Euniana

              One correction: I said corporate regulation, not business regulation. Most American libertarians I know would make a distinction between the two and disagree with corporate personhood and the level of corporate welfare present in the world today. One cannot ignore the power differential between a business where the boss knows every employee by name and an impersonal multinational corporation with more money and power than many countries.

              Why do you assume I have not read Ayn Rand? Also, I did not accuse you of misrepresenting Rand. Since you stated that you have yet to see anyone accurately present Rand’s views and still disagree with them, I assumed you held an interpretation that differed from mainstream Objectivist and American libertarian thought.

              Again, my question was not rhetorical. I would welcome a unique interpretation of Ayn Rand’s views. You have yet to provide one, although given your defence of Yaron Brook, it seems unlikely that it’s as novel as I had thought.

              Ayn Rand is not unnerving to me, but as I have read her books and found the views contained therein, at least to the best of my understanding, thoroughly objectionable. It thus disturbs me that intelligent people could accept her views. I imagine you might react similarly reading an otherwise cogent article only to find a sentence praising the virtues of Karl Marx.

            • ThePrussian

              Well, the reason that I thought you had not read her books is that I thought that, if you were then going to make a case why she’s wrong, then you’d cite her own views. Sorry about that. Also sorry about getting your comment wrong – I thought you were giving me the umpteenth snide comment (just look at this post for goodness sakes!).

              To the subject then, my view on this is the same as hers: Rand was first of all an advocate of reason, then of morality and then, only then, of capitalism. One of her crucial insights is that you cannot have a capitalist society without a moral revolution.

              If you look at Galt’s speech then, you find the following:

              “My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists-and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason-Purpose-Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge-Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve-Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

              Basically, all other moral systems are some form of arbitrary. The religious say that you should be good because God says so. Utilitarians say you should because society says so. Kantians say, well, just ’cause.

              And Rand says that, if you want to live a long, happy successful life you have to practice the strictest morality. You have to treat your fellow man with justice and honesty, and, while there are no guarantees of success, it is absolutely guaranteed that if you decide to be unjust and dishonest, you will end as a miserable loser who is poisonous to everyone and yourself. Morality isn’t a matter of subjective whim; it’s an absolute requirement for successful functioning in human society.

              And here is the crazy vision of a world that Objectivists seek to realize;

              “In that world, you’ll be able to rise in the morning with the spirit you have known in your childhood: that spirit of eagerness, adventure and certainty which comes from dealing with a rational universe. No child is afraid of nature; it is your fear of men that will vanish, the fear that has stunted your soul, the fear you acquired in your early encounters with the incomprehensible, the unpredictable, the contradictory, the arbitrary, the hidden, the faked, the irrational in men. You will live in a world of responsible beings, who will be as consistent and reliable as facts; the guarantee of their character will be a system of existence where objective reality is the standard of the judge. Your virtues will be given protection, your vices and weaknesses will not. Every chance will be open to your good, none will be provided for your evil. What you’ll receive from men will not be alms, or pity, or mercy, or forgiveness of sins, but a single value: justice. And when you’ll look at men or at yourself, you will feel, not disgust, suspicion and guilt, but a single constant: respect.
              So, what is so wrong with that?

            • Euniana

              Thanks for the response.

              I’m afraid I do have disagreements with this perspective, even though I agree it sound reasonable on the surface. The vision is founded on positive ideals, but ideals alone, however lofty, are not guaranteed to inspire equally positive beliefs and actions.

              (For a topical example, let’s recall how Richard Carrier of FTB characterized the Atheism+ movement: in his words, it was supposed to be based on the ideals of “reasonableness, compassion, and integrity”. I don’t need to describe how that turned out in practice.)

              Now I take issue in particular when Galt speaks of justice, independence, and pride as virtues. Let me go through the issues as I see them.

              Justice as stated is a nebulous concept, but as I recall, Galt denounces the shackles of religion but at the same time makes a dichotomy between the earned and the unearned, the deserving and the undeserving. The definition then seems to be that it’s just to give earned benefits to the deserving and unjust to give unearned benefits to the undeserving. However, the idea that you own and deserve only what you have worked for, I’m afraid, is also a very Christian idea (“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”) that is especially ingrained in Protestantism. On what standards, other than a cultural and religious doctrine, does Rand base this moral axiom?

              Humans are social animals endowed with empathy. Biology, psychology, and game theoretic mathematics show us that we are reservedly altruistic beings driven by selfish genes. One of the mechanisms with which evolution encourages us to be reservedly altruistic is a sense of pleasure when we help others (sociopaths notwithstanding). Reciprocal altruism appears to maximize our happiness. Indeed, it seems so deeply embedded in instinct that many primates are known to groom each other for purely social reasons. Why does Rand not see the virtue in this?

              In a simpler time, perhaps, a human being could go into the woods and live a fully independent life. In these interconnected times, however, that is increasingly impractical. Humans created society precisely because a multitude of interdependent people can prosper better than a multitude of independent people. Can anyone truly claim to be independent while living in society? On the topic of justice and deserving what you earn, how much of what you have worked for has not benefited from the work of others to which you have not contributed?

              The Romans left roads and infrastructure throughout Western Europe that later people benefited from without having earned them. Scientific advances from the Industrial Revolution to the space age proliferated throughout the world, benefiting people who hadn’t worked for them. Is this a bad thing, and does it diminish their virtues? What makes independence more of a virtue than interdependence?

              Finally, onto pride — every human being is born into different circumstances. Some have genetics that make them more intelligent, stronger, more charismatic, with stronger willpower, etc. Others are born into supportive families or places with the right infrastructure. Still others find themselves habitually in adverse situations. How much of what you accomplish can you truly claim as your own and not the result of a lucky cosmic dice roll?

              Why is pride more of a virtue than thankfulness that you have been endowed with what you have? Why is respect for someone’s independence more important than compassion for those who are, for whatever reason, unable to be independent?

              For all the positive claims, I still find that Ayn Rand’s vision will most likely lead to a tragedy of the commons.

            • ThePrussian

              Goodness me, a reasonable and well-informed question of Ayn Rand’s views and of Objectivism. I should have you transported to the Secret Objectivist Headquarters, otherwise no one will believe me.

              Seriously, you have no idea how rare this is.

              To address your questions then, you are quite right that others have proposed elements of this before. The thing you have to remember is that Objectivism isn’t “a form of morality” or “a way of living”. It is morality. It is ‘the only code by which a man lives, to the extent that he is not engaged in destroying himself.’

              Now let me unpack that statement.

              No Objectivist claims that, e.g., there were no just or honest people before Rand. That would be nuts. But consider the parallel with grammar. People were using language for a long time before some clever types came up with grammar, with definitions of what a verb was, what a noun is and the rules governing them. But once those laws were understood they allowed them to be consciously used to a much higher level.

              That is the genius of Rand’s discovery – precise definitions of these virtues, as well as why there are essential to human life. Let’s take honesty, just for starters. Here is the relevant section from Galt’s speech:

              “Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud-that an attempt to gain a value by deceiving the mind of others is an act of raising your victims to a position higher than reality, where you become a pawn of their blindness, a slave of their non-thinking and their evasions, while their intelligence, their rationality, their perceptiveness become the enemies you have to dread and flee-that you do not care to live as a dependent, least of all a dependent on the stupidity of others, or as a fool whose source of values is the fools he succeeds in fooling-that honesty is not a social duty, not a sacrifice for the sake of others, but the most profoundly selfish virtue man can practice: his refusal to sacrifice the reality of his own existence to the deluded consciousness of others.

              As you can see, the Objectivist definition goes considerably further than just “don’t tell lies”. To take one example, Objectivism recognizes the connection with rationality – you are not being fully honest if you merely avoid dishonesty – in order to be honest, you have to dedicate your mind to getting the fullest knowledge possible to you, the best understanding of reality relevant to the issue.

              The same is with the others. Justice is only a nebulous concept because the term has been polluted by SJWs and other types who are to Justice what a People’s Democratic Republic is to a democracy. Here is the definition of Justice:

              ““Justice is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the character of men as you cannot fake the character of nature, that you must judge all men as conscientiously as you judge inanimate objects, with the same respect for truth, with the same incorruptible vision, by as pure and as rational a process of identification-that every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly, that just as you do not pay a higher price for a rusty chunk of scrap than for a piece of shining metal, so you do not value a totter above a hero-that your moral appraisal is the coin paying men for their virtues or vices, and this payment demands of you as scrupulous an honor as you bring to financial transactions-that to withhold your contempt from men’s vices is an act of moral counterfeiting, and to withhold your admiration from their virtues is an act of moral embezzlement-that to place any other concern higher than justice is to devaluate your moral currency and defraud the good in favor of the evil, since only the good can lose by a default of justice and only the evil can profit-and that the bottom of the pit at the end of that road, the act of moral bankruptcy, is to punish men for their virtues and reward them for their vices, that that is the collapse to full depravity, the Black Mass of the worship of death, the dedication of your consciousness to the destruction of existence.”

              If you are unjust, justice will take you down. Simply put, you will drive away all the good people from you and surround yourself with wicked and evil people who will not hesitate to turn those techniques onto you. Read the following, just for example:

              http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/14/living-by-the-sword/

              Islam is another excellent example. It exalts hatred of the infidel, preaches violence and cruelty – and whaddya know? Far more Muslims than infidels die at the hands of the jihad.

              Continued in the next comment…

            • ThePrussian

              Believe it or not, I agree completely with what you say about the importance of society, and of what you call “reciprocal altruism”. If that sounds odd, it is because the term altruism is used in two different ways. One is wholesome, one is pure evil. Could I please ask that you read this?

              http://www.skepticink.com/prussian/2012/10/13/about-that-atlas-study/

              I go over the difference in the concepts in considerable detail. What I would say at the outset, it is precisely human virtue that has allowed evil to flourish. It is precisely because people have such an inbuilt aversion of being cruel and hateful, and a desire to be a decent person that has been perverted by evil ideology. The worst horrors have been possible, not because humans are fundamentally depraved, but because they deeply, fundamentally want to be good – and have been sold a false vision of what good is.

              As regards the importance of human’s living in society, here is Galt’s speech again:

              What determines the material value of your work? Nothing but the productive effort of your mind-if you lived on a desert island. The less efficient the thinking of your brain, the less your physical labor would bring you-and you could spend your life on a single routine, collecting a precarious harvest or hunting with bow and arrows, unable to think any further. But when you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you.

              “When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom your spend your time denouncing.

              So, Objectivism absolutely emphasizes the importance of social virtue, social responsibility. That is no more than a recognition that you have a direct, inescapable stake in the kind of society you live in, and that to struggle for a good and just society is also to keep faith with all those who helped raise us to such a height.

            • Euniana

              I see what you mean with the two different sides of altruism, and I accept that the underlying ideals seem sensible. Nonetheless, as you have mentioned, the Objectivist vision is one that requires a moral revolution before it can come to pass. There is also a vast disconnect between the philosophical underpinnings of Objectivism and the political ideology that Objectivists invariably embrace.

              The problem is the world demonstrably does not work as you and I idealistically want it to. Individual people may desire to be virtuous, and in an ideal world, they should be rational agents that require no external nudging to behave in a socially responsible manner. Nonetheless, the interaction of individuals, however nobly motivated, generally results in more than the sum of its parts, as emergent mathematics and psychology tell us. A population, when left to its own device, will tend to exhaust resources with short-sighted abandon.

              For what it’s worth, I would describe my political beliefs as aligning with certain schools of anarchism otherwise known as libertarian socialism or left libertarianism. As such, I frown heavily on coercive measures and believe that, in an ideal world, individuals ought to band together cooperatively for mutual prosperity. Even then, I recognize that in the real world, people are not truly rational actors, and group dynamics creates novel emergent properties that cannot be estimated from aggregating the virtues and vices of a group’s individual members. As you scale up a group’s size, the more pronounced the inadequacies of extrapolating from individual actions and preferences become.

              For example, there are two well-known mathematical problems in social choice theory. One is the Condorcet paradox, where in a population where individuals all have transitive preferences (e.g. A > B > C and A > C), the consensus may still turn out to be non-transitive (e.g. A > B > C but C > A). The other is Arrow’s impossibility theorem, which states that no method of aggregating individual choices can satisfy all of the following conditions: a) if everyone prefers X over Y, then the group prefers X over Y (Pareto efficiency); b) if the group prefers X over Y, then the introduction of Z should not change the preference relating to X and Y (independence of irrelevant alternatives); and c) no single individual should have the power to decide the group’s preference (non-dictatorship).

              The mathematics of game theory, as I’ve mentioned, shows us that individuals all rationally acting in their own best interests invariably results in a society where everyone is worse off than if they all act to maximize the group’s well-being. However, the latter scenario is inherently unstable, since cunning individuals can always prey on the trusting nature of others. This results in the realistic scenario where people must always act defensively in a society where there is no trust or they must band together to maximize mutual well-being in whatever way necessary.

              The point then is that groups naturally emerge in every society, and thanks to the still little-understood emergent properties of group dynamics, they do not act predictably as a simple aggregate of their individual components. In short, a mob of intelligent people is still a mob. Furthermore, a group can diminish the sense of individual responsibility of its members and amplify the influence its members can assert.

              The assessment of groups is where capitalists and I differ. While capitalists accept businesses as an extension of individuals, I am more skeptical of any grouping of individuals and their collective resources. It doesn’t matter what the group’s stated purpose is–whether it’s a business, corporation, trade union, guild, or government–because groups can behave in ways that do not represent the interests or virtues of their members.

              The most pernicious part of group power is that it is not only governments that can oppress and coerce. Any sufficiently powerful group can do the same, merely on different scales. Although I am highly critical of the coercive power governments wield, I am just as wary of powerful businesses and corporations and their ability to repress and harm. While the two different types of entities coexist, there is always the danger that they might cooperate in taking away liberties (e.g. see the collusion between NSA and IT companies like Facebook/Google/Microsoft/Apple/etc). But at the same time, when their interests clash, they may keep each other in check through cyclic lobbying and regulations. I think the latter, while inefficient and wasteful and certainly far from ideal, is a slightly better state of affairs than the former.

              As a final point of critique, I disagree with the dichotomy between personal generosity and forced sacrifice. You make it an extreme divide between the willing giving of individuals and the mass-scale authoritarian practices of totalitarian regimes. But there are certainly many intermediate positions between total voluntarism and total coercion, some of which may be more pragmatic.

              Like you mentioned in the other article, the cultural idea that sacrifice is noble is in some way coercive, because it can lead to intense pressure over otherwise rational choices. Nonetheless, as I’ve mentioned, people are not necessarily rational actors. People in general are profoundly poor at risk analysis and long-term thinking. Perhaps such social mores are in the long run necessary to encourage more socially responsible behaviour. A set of morals should not be so inflexible as to have no room for nuance.

            • ThePrussian

              “The mathematics of game theory, as I’ve mentioned, shows us that individuals all rationally acting in their own best interests invariably results in a society where everyone is worse off than if they all act to maximize the group’s well-being”

              That’s actually wrong. What game theory shows is that the best way for people to get on is benevolent tit-for-tat. You start by treating people decently and then you treat them as they treated you. What Rand defined under justice

              “Nonetheless, as I’ve mentioned, people are not necessarily rational actors.”

              True – but if people are occasionally unable to rationally direct their own lives, how much less likely are they to direct the lives of millions?

              “As a final point of critique, I disagree with the dichotomy between personal generosity and forced sacrifice. You make it an extreme divide between the willing giving of individuals and the mass-scale authoritarian practices of totalitarian regimes. But there are certainly many intermediate positions between total voluntarism and total coercion, some of which may be more pragmatic.”

              Well, you draw the wrong opposition there. Either your actions are free from the threat of physical force, or they are not. A free donation, even a billion, is fine. The forced seizing of even a penny is not.

              Now, before you say, yes, we live in the real world and it will be a long time before we can fully incarnate that ideal in reality. But so what? Slavery still exists, and I don’t think that means that the struggle against it was pointless, nor that we should abandon that struggle.

              “While the two different types of entities coexist, there is always the danger that they might cooperate in taking away liberties (e.g. see the collusion between NSA and IT companies like Facebook/Google/Microsoft/Apple/etc). ”

              An internet meme I saw made this point perfectly:

              Where liberals make perfect sense: “Companies are taking over the government!”

              Where liberals make no sense: “Therefore we should give the government much more power!”.

              And, no, I’m sorry, but the power to offer or refuse a job is not merely different in scale but different in kind between the power to have you thrown in jail or killed. They are not to be compared.

            • Euniana

              That’s actually wrong. What game theory shows is that the best way for
              people to get on is benevolent tit-for-tat. You start by treating
              people decently and then you treat them as they treated you. What Rand
              defined under justice

              It’s not wrong. Let me explain more fully. The most rational way for a self-interested individual to play the iterated prisoner’s dilemma is to always defect, because the player can never end up worse than anyone else. If you play Always Defect against any variety of tit for tat, you always end up on top or at worst tied.

              Game theory researchers are more interested in evolutionarily stable strategies that are optimal, i.e. create the most positive gains for the group as a model of natural selection. And the cooperator-with-a-backbone approach does that. Stochastic strategies that occasionally forgive a defect can score even better. But neither wins against Always Defect.

              And, no, I’m sorry, but the power to offer or refuse a job is not merely different in scale but different in kind between the power to have you thrown in jail or killed. They are not to be compared.

              Businesses don’t have you thrown in jail or killed because that role is generally already filled by governments and gangs. In places where a power vacuum exists, you may find that businesses are just as capable of fulfilling the roles of governments or gangs.

              For historical examples, look at the Hudson’s Bay Company in British North America and the East India Company. For modern examples, look into conflict diamonds and the corporate takeover of Africa, not to mention mercenary groups.

              We label a group by what it does, but there is more fluidity between types of groups than is generally acknowledged. Street gangs sometimes operate legitimate businesses and morph into political parties, which can go on to become the government (in Chinese, the same word can refer to a political party and a criminal gang: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E9%BB%A8 ). A government that has been ousted can devolve into a corporation or gang.

              You take a very absolutist stance when it comes to the forced seizing of a penny. I find it rather strange that you don’t have the same opinion when it comes to groups that, in principle, can seize everything you own but for the threat of intervention by the Leviathan that operates by forcibly seizing your tax money.

            • ThePrussian

              @Euniana, I’m sorry, but you really need to reread the history of it. Look up the “Tit for Tat” method of playing that game. There’s a very good write up of it in the Selfish Gene, under “nice guys finish first”.

              “Businesses don’t have you thrown in jail or killed because that role is
              generally already filled by governments and gangs. In places where a
              power vacuum exists, you may find that businesses are just as capable of
              fulfilling the roles of governments or gangs.”

              Yes, those are called criminal syndicates, and they are exactly what Rand dedicated herself to fighting against. You are absolutely pushing at an open door with me when it comes to the bleeding of the world’s poorest by the crony-socialist corporations, the ones that use government power to wrack and ruin any competitor, especially the poor and the vulnerable. Read Atlas Shrugged and you will not find one word that defends such behaviour, and thousands that condemn it.

              The point of government is to remove the use of physical force from society.

            • Unhiddenness

              imao

    • kraut2

      I thought once out of your teenage years you get over Rand.

      As to right wing dreams of fascism: It is not so much foreigners (they are as much scapegoats as the jews once were – and might again become) it is the economics, stupid.

      http://cluborlov.blogspot.ca/2015/03/financial-feudalism.html

      That is the way the US is strongly approaching – or already having entered, with the bail outs of an almost impenetrable financial fortress Wallstreet.

      • ThePrussian

        Well, I have this odd habit where I don’t abandon a viewpoint for which there is loads of evidence without so much a shred of evidence to the contrary. Funny little habit, but there it is.

        • kraut2

          You maintain that the evidence is the hatred of the foreigner is inspired by…the hatred of the foreigner because he/she is just a foreigner?

          is it not rather the economic condition that inspires hatred of the foreigner, the refugee and illegal immigrant that “takes away my job” and “costs too much to maintain” that inspires this hate?
          Was it the hatred of the jew (which had deep roots in some but not other parts in Germany) or was it the economic condition that led to the hatred of the jew as a convenient scapegoat for those conditions?
          Was it the power structure/economic advantage that led to the Rwanda bloodbath or was it just the Tutsi being Tutsi?
          As in most criminal cases it also applies in politics – follow the money.

          BTW – the mix of reasonable ideas with the unreasonable, racist and supremacist ideas make the far right so dangerous. Some of what can be gleamed from LePens platform or the platform of UKIP is fairly straight forward – restrictions to immigration, restriction of illegal immigration and dealing with refugees.

          Being an immigrant myself I had a rather heated discussion at my workplace when I declared that I would not consider talking to a person wearing a Niqab. I only speak to those who show me the respect to show their faces, and that I would refuse to communicate with any public employee who wears any sign of his religion during working hours.
          i do not believe in the idea of “multiculturalism as propagated by many a liberal – exercise your multiculturalism in the privacy of your home or your friends.

          • ThePrussian

            I was actually referring to my continuing adherence to Objectivism.

    • ElectroJosh

      Basically there are those less concerned about positively advocating the positions they hold than they are seeking ideological purity. I mean I agree with most of PZ’s stated positions myself. The big irony is that so does Michael Nugent who actively fights for secularism (right to die, marriage equality, reproductive rights) and works to promote greater gender equality in the secularist/atheist/what-have-you movement. On paper Nugent and Myers should be close allies. It demonstrates there is a big difference between sharing a set of positions/goals and actually working together when one party is more interested in purging the movement of “subversive persons”.

      Just one thing I thought I would correct:

      “… I would be completely assured of having Myers, Benson et al not just shut up and say nothing, but most likely defend me, grovel and lick my boots.”

      Benson probably isn’t the best example from the FTB crowd considering she is extremely critical of Islam and leftists that defend it. But that is just a nitpick.

      (Hey look; a comment that isn’t focused on you mentioning Ayn Rand).

      • ThePrussian

        Thanks. For once someone focuses on something important.

    • Unhiddenness
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    • Rozza

      Athiest sceptics are intellectually gelded by Islam & the age terror.

      Hitchens read Sura 9 but then seduced himself with the Neo-con’s self proclaimed white man’s burden.

      The Atheist+ crew & PC P.Z will get all caught up in calling a theological spade a spade, sounds racist perhaps Islamaphobic same TV difference.

      However both sides are the mirror image blind spot of each other when it comes to the likes of the psy-op modified wild type Islam, IS, that is Balkanizing the last Baathist state.

      TV has it that the well spring of the terror age, was done by barely Cessna trained jihardies who with a 757 jetliner performed descending corkscrew descents at 3000+ ft per minute to level off at 400+ mph so as to hit a building at ground level.

      TV also supposes that the top 12 stories of a 110 storied steel framed tower destroyed an identical 12 other stories of the same tower in a gravity driven collapse, then went onto destroy another 80+ progressively more rigid floor. Hello Newton’s 3rd & thermodynamics 1st.

      It was the day when the tome of English media announced the collapse of a steel framed tower 20 minutes before it did, symmetrically, at partial free fall, due to fire that apparently caused an asymmetrical column failure, proven by a computer model whose physics engine remains unreleased & no forensics.

      The day when the Neo-cons ‘new Pearl Harbor’ wish came true all wrapped up with a Patriot Act and a DHS. The day Al Queda’s numbers became destined to explode, USdebt too. When Saddam Hussain’s Arab oil for Euros became set to die with the 2nd last Baathist state.

      My ‘skeptic’ friends accept TV reality as default as did Dr Dawkins on 15/09/2001. Blame it on religion if your Hitcharian or Dawkarian, imperialism or racism if P.Z.

      The movement as a whole seems incapable of understanding the big show in a manner consistent with even the classical laws of physics.

      The movement is reduced to ignoring the simple physics or getting it compulsively wrong, ‘dynamically load’ doesn’t change the laws of physics. If that fails then cherry picking the ill informed, straw-manning & finally dropping ad~hominems of exquisite double speak.

      Maybe the smarty pants vibe common in A/S~ism results in the projection of the fear of being intellectually ridiculed in the form of ‘twoofers’ & some such slights. Maybe A/S luminaries like their tenures & tour dates.

      No wonder a movement of supposed reason that practices such reactionary fallacies tends to manifest ironic brain farts in relation to the day that we learned that they hate us for our freedom & that our freedoms began to decline.

    • Nice Ekhat

      I can’t help but wonder if “New Atheism” is going the way of the pet rock. Hitchens was excommunicated and memory-holed by the political left for apostasy. Dawkins has gone from “Britian’s leading public thinker” to Twitter troll. Harris has been on the defensive against the perennially aggrieved for some time now. And Dennett has been up to… what? I can’t think of anything significant I can attach his name to.

      New Atheism doesn’t seem to have a natural home in the current, highly politicized, highly polarized environment. Finding a home on the right requires significant concessions to the SoCons in terms of policy if a unified front is to be created. On the left… well, Ace of Spades said it best: “on the left, politics is religion by other means.” Given how a large chunk of the community was co-opted by Atheism+, I’m genuinely curious about the long-term viability of non-plus atheism.

      • ThePrussian

        I am increasingly fed up with even trying to forge a common ground here. If there is a hope for organized atheism, it seems to be the Godless Right. We are the only ones standing with our fists up when it really comes down to it. Objectivists in particular have a flawless record on resisting religious aggression in general and Islamic aggression in particular.

        So in a very weird way, and a small way, I am grateful for PZ. His ilk will so completely poison the intellectual atmosphere of the godless left that there will be only one way for all the decent, serious and intelligent people to go: rightwards.

        • Nice Ekhat

          But how godless can that right be, considering that (full disclosure: American talking) the religious contingent is absolutely necessary for electoral viability? You use Marine le Pen as an example, and I think she illustrates neatly the problem at hand: you have a cynical politician from very fringe-y roots leading a party of, at best, dubious intent and… she may be the best hope France has. Speaking of the problems that mass immigration is introducing is too gauche for the mainstream parties, whose program is to either ignore the problem or actively make it worse. This makes le Pen the least-worst answer, at least if you’re concerned about deli shoppers and Jacobin nut-fudge cartoonists getting getting gunned down.

          Sorry; rambling a bit. I suppose my thinking is, “what does one pick when the options boil down to 1) declaring on-sides with PZ Myers, 2) declaring on-sides with Vox Day, or 3) consigning oneself to the Ron Paul corner of principled irrelevance?”

          • ThePrussian

            It’s a tricky one, but I do think that it is a fast growing segment. Most sophisticated conservatives – metrocons, as John Derbyshire calls them – don’t believe in god, but do in religion. That is, they believe in protecting tradition and so forth. There’s room for hope there.

            I’d say that the way to do it is to think about cooperation on a case-by-case basis and make sure you are always clear about your principles and state them openly.

            • Nice Ekhat

              I’m sorry, I’m not understanding this reply very well. What is a fast-growing segment?

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