AE BB DB Explorer


Action:
Author:
Search Terms (separate with commas, no spaces):


form_srcid: Flint

form_srcid: Flint

form_cmd: view_author

Your IP address is 54.205.95.9

View Author detected.

view author posts with search matches:

Retrieve source record and display it.

form_author:

form_srcid: Flint

q: SELECT AUTHOR, MEMBER_NAME, IP_ADDR, POST_DATE, TOPIC_ID, t1.FORUM_ID, POST, POST_ID, FORUM_VIEW_THREADS from ib_forum_posts AS t1 LEFT JOIN (ib_member_profiles AS t2, ib_forum_info AS t3) ON (t1.forum_id = t3.forum_id AND t1.author = t2.member_id) WHERE MEMBER_NAME like 'Flint%' and forum_view_threads LIKE '*' ORDER BY POST_DATE ASC

DB_err:

DB_result: Resource id #4

Date: 2006/01/04 13:56:51, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

I'm not sure we can get very far along these lines. I view an economy in the traditional microeconomic view, as everyone trying to make rational decisions as to how best to allocate their resources, so as to maximize their self-interest. I see this process as being entirely amoral. I have a dollar. I can spend it on food, or I can spend it on gasoline (let's say). I can't spend it on both. Well, what's more important to me, getting somewhere or eating? I make my allocation decision. At least as I see it, this is a moral decision only in the loosest possible sense.

I won't deny that people attempt to apply economic pressures for moral reasons, but this doesn't make economics moral anymore than using a baseball bat to mug someone makes the bat a mugger. An economy is an emergent property of many individual allocation decisions. That property is irrespective of the rationale the individual actors have for their decisions, except insofar as they are presumed to be acting selfishly.

Date: 2006/01/04 14:20:09, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

I'm not sure what you are trying to say. My best guess is that you are attempting to score points with sarcasm, and if that's so, you win all the points. If you have any particular problem, I hope you can articulate it clearly. However, I can say that the ideas you ascribe to me are clearly in error: I said no such thing. I can try to clear that up a little:

Quote
nobody can figure out what the heck tax policy effects might be

No, I didn't say this. I was talking about the effects of LOTS of tax policies, all at once, on the national economy. I certainly agree that if I had been talking about the effects on any particular individual of a change in income tax rates, the effect on that individual would be pretty obvious. Now, would changing the tax rate on that individual have any measurable effect on national economic productivity? How would you isolate it?

Quote
Rich folks like Paris are super productive and all rich people like them have more money 'cause they've produced more value

No, not quite. Fortunately, you quoted the general principle - that money tends in general to go to to those who earn it. But of course, there will be plenty of exceptions. In the case of Paris Hilton, part of her fortune was inherited, but part has resulted from her own activities - whether or not YOU consider her TV shows valuable. And then there are lottery winners, etc. But what you're doing is like pointing to helium balloons as "proof" that the observation that dropped items fall is foolish. Good work, man!

Incidentally, let's say we decided to eliminate inheritance, and have the government confiscate everything everyone died still owning. Would THAT have any macroeconomic impact? Or would you need to know what the government decided to do with the money?

Quote
There is no moral element *at all* to any economic policy.

You're on a roll! I was careful not to speak about economic policy, only about economic activity. In general, ALL economic policies have moral overtones if not direct moral intentions. They are adopted to Make Things Better. Economic policies, in general, are attempts to manipulate the forces of supply and demand (and thus distort market mechanisms) to achieve some moral purpose.

Date: 2006/01/04 14:39:15, Link
Author: Flint
I can see, at least a little bit, how it might be necessary for people raised into biblical belief and who later get deep enough into what science is and how it works, to feel the need to accept both at once. The former must be true because it being false is unthinkable, the latter must be true because it being false is irrational. Yet by any remotely plausible interpretation, they can't both be right.

Fortunately for such people, they ARE people of faith. And this means the two don't conflict because they have faith that they don't conflict. They SAY it's true, and that makes it true. So really, the hard part is already taken care of; all that's left is the details. And of course, any details can be reconciled using this same technique. A little creative interpretation of scripture, science, or both, and POOF we have coherence.

Date: 2006/01/04 16:10:17, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

There aren't so much economic theories, as economic schools of thought. You might really want to visit this Wikipedia page. The battle between the Austrian school (Mises, etc.) and the Keynesians is surprisingly bitter.

Wikipedia also introduces you to the monetarists, the classicists, the supply siders, and other views. You might get some insight into this battle at this site (with which I must say I agree entirely, and the Austrians detest it).

Date: 2006/01/04 16:13:14, Link
Author: Flint
More fantastical evolutionary critters but perhaps not quite so fantastical as Larry or Blast.

Date: 2006/01/05 04:57:33, Link
Author: Flint
Some of these questions are as hazy as "how high is up?" or "Is it colder in the North or in the Winter?" And this is a Bad Thing when we're assigning numbers, because the numbers can then be manipulated (finding averages, etc.) without regard to the fact that they don't necessarily mean anything.

So I'm going to approach this a bit differently. Questions about the supernatural are simply not accessible to science, rendering any numerical response nonsensical. For questions 4, 5, 8 and 9, it's simply not possible to assign a number that says anything comprehensible. They could all be given a "1" (no scientific support) or a "7" (overwhelming support) and either response could be equally justified!

So let's try to clarify: the supernatural lies outside the competence of science. Science is simply *not capable* of saying *anything* about the supernatural. Anything AT ALL. And this means ANY number assigned to these questions is fundamentally meaningless and dishonest.

Now, on to the questions themselves:

1) Living organisms arose from non-living matter by a purely natural mechanism that is well understood. I'd also give this a value of 2. Some possible (i.e. plausible according to the known rules of chemistry) mechanisms have been proposed, and some possible very early precursor protocell structures have been created. But it's important to note that how the first life DID happen may simply not be knowable. I wouldn't be surprised if scientists were to discover several different mechanisms that would have been sufficient, but we'll never know which (if any) happened.

2) All organisms alive today share common ancestry at some time in the remote past I think the evidence here merits a full 7. Yes, it's possible that multiple lineages arose early on, but all seem to have joined the main trunk of the tree of life at some point.

3) All organisms alive today reached their modern form as a result of mechanisms that are well understood by science I'd give this one a 6. The mechanisms currently identified are well understood, but I think it's an error to believe that ALL mechanisms have been identified. I'd state as a matter of principle that we can *never* confidently claim we've nailed them all.

4) N/A

5) N/A. We can't even define what supernatural means. However, we can be pretty confident that the mechanisms currently understood are sufficient, and no supernatural component (whatever that might mean) is required. Whether one was *involved* is not knowable to science.

6) Human beings are related to other species. 7. No question here.

7) The physical form and behavior of human beings have been shaped by natural selection. 7. After all, "form and behavior" essentially describe ALL organisms.

8) N/A

9) Supernatural forces are not required to account for human consciousness and culture, including moral and religious impulses. N/A. Here, we're talking about the process of elimination - the idea being that if we could fully account for consciousness and culture without ringing in anything "supernatural", we could squeeze out any supernatural requirement. Again, this is like question 5). Until we can have some notion what supernatural means in practice, how can we know if it's required?

10) Natural selection is responsible for the rise of human consciousness and culture, including moral and religious impulses. This question is not possible to answer meaningfully with a number. First, we need to define "moral and religious impulses." Until we know what these things ARE, we can't know what causes them. And I personally think reasonable people could argue forever over such a definition. No matter HOW we define these things, it's going to be possible to argue that they don't even exist.

But let's say people DO have "religious impulses" (I admit I don't feel any. What would one seem like?). Perhaps it would be most meaningful to say that whatever people do or think is an emergent property of how people are physically constructed. From this view, since natural selection is largely responsible for the evolution of all organisms, everything about those organisms is at least partially the result of natural selection.

But the danger with question 10) is that it seems to have a nodding acquaintence with "social Darwinism" and this is a dangerous error.

So here's a metaphor. Think of natural selection as having provided us with an easel, a canvas, and an extensive palette of colored paints. We each use these tools to paint a picture. Are the  materials "responsible" for the picture? In a sense, yes of course. But in another sense, the picture itself is more than some mixture of paints on canvas - it has an emergent MEANING entirely independent of the materials that compose it. That meaning doesn't lie in the paint, it lies in the mind of whoever interprets the pattern.

And in this sense, culture and moral and religious impulses are *projections*, interpretations imposed on perceived patterns not inherent in the patterns, but only in the interpretations. Natural selection only enables these things; it's responsibility extends no further.

Date: 2006/01/05 05:50:56, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

Quote

Can you explain how tax policies are applied singly, not all at once so that you can understand their effects? I didn't think so.

Only insofar as you did - that the effects on a single individual can be sorted out pretty easily.

Quote
In terms of the national economy, I agree nobody can understand all of the effects on the national economy, but you can understand a few important ones. For instances virtually every policy that Bush has advocated can, will and has had the effect of making the rich richer at a faster rate than everyone else. That's not their only effect but it is one significant effect.

No question about it, but again that's NOT a national effect in terms of the national economy. That's an effect on basically the richest 1/2 of 1% of the population. For them, it's significant.

Quote
I think maybe this is an effect that is meaningless to you. It seems like the only effects you're concerned with are the GDP and its first derivative. However, as a moral issue, some people care how the money is distributed.

Yes, but this is a somewhat different orientation. You're talking here about the politics of envy. Personally, if I'm making $X a year and I'm comfortable, I don't become any less comfortable to discover that someone else is making $100X a year. Nor do I feel poorer to learn that tax cuts have raised them to $120X a year. But I understand that some people pay attention to these ratios, and DO feel poorer.

Quote
The "biggest economic boom" in history may have occured during the late 90's by your view, but median household income (in the U.S.) went up a lot faster during the 50's. Hint: a lot more of the 90's boom went to the super-rich which is why the median didn't rise that much.

I agree there are many ways to measure a boom. I was using the DOW as a yardstick, but of course this is limited in lots of ways. Perhaps median household income is better. Perhaps unemployment rate is better. I'm aware that much of that boom didn't really translate into economic activity.

Quote
This whole side-thread started because you expressed derision with someone who held an opinion on some economic policy while admitting no formal training in economics.

This is only partially correct. I was expressing derision that someone who admitted no formal training or knowledge, was expressing an opinion I felt ANY formal training or knowledge would refute. To compare with evolution, there's a difference in my mind between somone saying "I have never studied any biology but it looks like chimps resemble gorillas" and someone saying "I have never studied any biology but I know that evolution doesn't happen." Supply and demand don't go away because people dislike the moral implications.

Quote
The odd thing is that you've since been arguing that those with expertice really don't know very well what effects different policies will have either. I disagree, I think many policy formulators have a pretty good idea what effects their policies while have (probably not the global consequences but at least the most basic consequence that they care about). They know it will make them and their supporters even richer in relative terms which is what they care about.

I'm not sure if I follow this correctly. Hopefully, we've agreed that there is a difference between predicting what effect a policy will have on a specific cohort of economic actors, and predicting what effect the policy will have on the economy at large. Policy formulators tend to focus on constituencies; their purposes are political. Even so, actual and intended effects don't always coincide; sometimes they are wildly different. One school of though argues quite persuasively that the Great Depression was made MUCH deeper and longer because in response to the first symptoms, Congress took the worst possible fiscal tack.

Quote
I'd guess that about half of the rich people are rich due to their "value" contributions to the economy and the other half were born in to it or just had it fall in their lap.

Yes, I think that sounds about right. In economic terms, I think we could say that *someone* earned the money by making a genuine contribution valued highly by the market. Fortunes can certainly take generations of heirs not doing much productively before dissipating.

Quote
Kinda suggests that maybe laymen with no formal economic training might not be so absurd to voice opinions on these moral matters.

Not absurd, but not necessarily correct either. Most of these moral opinions are statements of preference, and everyone has preferences. But preferences are not economics. Here's an example: we have a factory chuffing pollution into the air. We want it stopped. Now, should we levy a fine for polluting of $X, or should we sell the polluter a pollution license for $X? Most people find the former morally satisfying and the latter morally appalling, yet economically (from the perspective of the polluter), there's no difference. $X has been added to the cost of doing business.

I'm always amused at the anger toward WalMart. They are moral victims of their own success - they have provided what their customers want so excessively successfully that they are now being vilified for doing so. People aren't willing to give up their low prices, but they demand better wages, more benefits, more competition, better community dynamics etc. IN ADDITION.

Date: 2006/01/05 06:07:08, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

Quote
Economic activity and policy decisions are inherently decisions that a layman can and should be a part of precicely because they are moral decisions.

I still don't understand. I gave an example of a purchasing decision. I didn't see any morality involved.

Quote
A community has to decide if they want to allow a walmart for example. That is a moral decision to a large extent.

Again, I don't understand. I think the community should understand by now that a WalMart is going to have pervasive economic consequences. They even know what those consequences are going to be. So they can make an informed decision as to whether the benefits (which are very real) outweigh or are outweighed by the consequences (which are also very real).

Even the decision whether to spend your money on an apple or a quart of motor oil is a value judgment.

Quote
Both of those stocks have done quite well over the past several years but my moral decision, however hypocritical it may be, was to not own those stocks.

As I wrote earlier, it's entirely possible to attempt to impose economic pressures for moral reasons.

Quote
In my moral world schools would have lots of money.

Here's where my idea of economics comes in. Yes, I agree. Schools should have lots of money. Most government programs are worthwhile and should have lots of money. Charities are valuable and should have lots of money. Taxes should be low because *I* should have lots of money. But hard as I search through your post, I simply can't find what you have decided you will *do without* so that schools can have more money. Maybe you're saying you're willing to pay (let's say) double your current taxes? OK, that's a community decision.

Quote
Economics as a discipline is useful to describe behavior but the behavior is largly moral.

Maybe this terminology is too vague? Economics describes tradeoffs. Individual economic actors (you and me, for example) allocate our resources according to our best current understanding of our self-interest, however much enlightenment we choose to extend to that understanding. Now, we have everyone making their individual decisions, and what emerges is a large-scale pattern of resource allocation. Resources here are more than money, they're time and skill. Economics tries to study these patterns, to learn how they arise and how they can be modified.

I think you're right that economics is a tool of analysis. The actors are making moral decisions perhaps, but the economy is not moral. The ballplayers care dearly who wins the game, but the game itself (the set of rules they play by) does not care.

Date: 2006/01/05 06:13:33, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

Quote
No. They used a business model which takes advantage of communities offering food stamps and health care. They made what I think of as an immoral business model which cuts costs by letting welfare pay their workers.


But WalMart has broken no rules; as I said, they have set low prices as their goal. They are dedicated to doing everything legally possible to keep prices minimized. If the community rules allow them to pass costs outside their system, then of course they will do so. To go back to my ballplayer analogy, WalMart tries everything possible within the rules to win their game.

Now, you seem to be saying that the rules should be changed, because they permit organizations like WalMart to cut their costs by shifting costs where you'd prefer they not be permitted to do so. But following the rules is not immoral, and WalMart follows the rules (and are punished when they do not). So what you are saying is that the RULES are immoral. And the community can certainly change the rules if they desire to do so.

Date: 2006/01/05 07:53:08, Link
Author: Flint
Dean Morrison:

I think we are not communicating here. Let's start at a very general level. People, by application of time and skill, produce goods and services others want. People exchange these things. That's an economy. Economic activity results in the distribution of goods and services.

There is no explicit or implicit requirement that those who produce the most market value, be the same people as those who end up with the most money. Indeed, entire political economies have been set up explicity to *prevent* this sort of thing, for one reason or another. One thing economics CAN tell us is how per capita production relates to per capita wealth over the long term. The general trend has been, the closer these two correlate, the larger the per capita wealth across the economy as a whole.

Now, is increasing per capita wealth ("growing the economy") a good thing? Economics can't answer that, but most individuals find it desirable. Economics doesn't even pass moral judgment over theft. That's simply another economic transaction, with economic implications.

I won't say that most rich people "deserve" to be rich, but I WILL say that we can tell whether someone is doing something someone else is willing to pay for. I should also point out that investment is a value in the sense that it enables others to create value. Investment is rewarded with interest and dividends and (sometimes) with capital appreciation.

I'm not saying anything about altruism. I personally think Bush is rewarding his supporters, as any politician seeks to do.

Economics can describe what sorts of redistributive properties monopolies lead to. In general, monopolies have two effects on wealth: they polarize it, and they reduce it. Economics doesn't pass judgment on whether this is a "bad thing." Economics only describes what happens and how it happens.

Back to the baseball game. You seem entirely hung up on who wins, and you pay no attention to how the game works. You're like the creationists reacting to the Dover decision - who cares what the law is or how the court system works or what our procedures and principles are? THE WRONG SIDE WON. What else matters?

Date: 2006/01/05 08:13:30, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

I admit I simply don't know what you're trying to say most of the time.

Quote
I do care if you are releasing pcb's into the waterways near where I live, making a million and leaving the pcb's.

I don't blame you. So what? If we as a community want to change this, economics tells us we'd be well advised to change the financial incentives. This happens because when the incentive changes, the perceived self-interest of the polluter will change. Economics holds that the polluter, as an economic actor, will act in his perceived self-interest.

Quote
I do care if you are shifting the costs of your business onto me through my tax burden. I don't shop at walmart and it irritates me that I have to spend money there through taxes.

I'm not sure I understand this. Are you referring to the tax breaks communities have sometimes extended to WalMart to attract a store to their district? Increasingly, results are coming in showing that communities tend to suffer a net economic loss by offering large tax breaks to major employers. So this practice may become less common in the future. Economics, by the way, is a tool that allows people to generate and analyze these results.

Quote
I do care that our tax burden is becoming less fair with the tax policies that Bush has pushed.

What do you mean by "fair"? I've seen claims that "fair" means everyone pays the same amount, claims that "fair" means everyone pays the same *rate*, claims that "fair" means that the rich pay all the taxes and the poor get subsidies, etc. Which is your version of fair?

Quote
I do care that the lottery and cigarette taxes are taxes on the poor.

I think you've made a poor selection here - there is no requirement that anyone purchase either one. If I place a price on my product that nobody is obligated to pay, and some people choose to pay it, then for those people BY DEFINITION I have placed a fair price on my product.

Now, you might be talking about taxes and fees that are effectively regressive, in the sense that poorer people spend a higher percentage of their income on such taxes and fees than richer people spend. So I'm going to guess that when you spoke earlier about "fair", you meant either neutral or progressive effective tax rates. Now, so what? Yes, changing the shape of the tax structure has economic consequences. We can figure them out, so we can say who wins and who loses, and within some range how MUCH they win or lose, as a result. Whether any of them *ought* to win or lose, economics can't tell us.

Quote
That is my personal morality. As a citizen, I have an obligation to at least learn enough about what I am voting for to vote my conscience.

Yes, I agree. To the degree that you can predict the consequences of your actions, you can more accurately direct your efforts so as to achieve your perceived self-interest.

Quote
Thus, the layman doesn't need to understand game theory to make informed economic decisions because economic decisions are largely moral.

Huh? You just built a case for the exact opposite - that the layman DOES need to understand these things if his decisions are to result in what he wants. You just said the layman is "obligated" (I don't like the term. He isn't obligated to inform and educate himself) to learn enough to know that if he does X, the likely result is Y. And that's what economic analysis can tell him. And I also agree with an implication you carefully don't make explicit: Most people DO NOT know the consequences of their actions, they only have a seat-of-the-pants, often dead wrong, "feel" for what's "right". Then, when they don't get what they expect, they blame others for being "immoral".

Economics is a tool, like math. By themselves, these tools are not moral.

Date: 2006/01/05 08:22:12, Link
Author: Flint
Dean Morrison:

Quote
Perhaps economists should study slime moulds

I can only laugh. Such tradeoffs are pretty much the ENTIRE content of economics 101. Typically, in that class you will graph cost against benefit. At one extreme (all spore, no stalk) the benefits are 0. At the opposite extreme (all stalk, no spore) the benefits are also zero. The graph between them is a parabola. The "ideal" tradeoff between stalk and spore is where reproduction is maximized. This occurs (it's easy to see on the graph) where the slope is zero - the very top of the parabola. Piece of cake, just take the first derivative of the equation of the curve, and that's where your maximum lies.

Of course, the amoebae didn't apply differential calculus to find this mix. Most likely, they used trial and error. Those who most nearly approximated the maximum did the best job of reproducing.

Date: 2006/01/05 09:16:23, Link
Author: Flint
Dean Morrison:

Quote
Am I wrong in thinking that you more or less hold to a 'laissez faire' school of economic thought Flint?

I don't know why this even matters. Laissez faire economics has knowable consequences. Regulation has knowable consequences. "Pure" socialism has knowable consequences, both (in general terms) for the economy as a whole, and for the individual actors within it.

Now, do I *prefer* a system of economic management that, like a rising tide, expands and lifts all boats? Yes, personally, I do prefer that, but within limits and with certain constraints.

Quote
You seem to be making the argument that this school is supported by mathmatical 'proofs' and is not therefore open to question.

I don't see where this statement might be coming from. Economics as a tool can be used to analyze the economic consequences of various management goals and techniques. But I feel like I'm trying to explain how addition works, and you're trying to decide which numbers I must like best.

Quote
I'd say there are economic 'truths' involved, and study of economic dynamics should inform our fiscal policies.

"Inform" is perhaps a slippery term here. Such a study may be helpful in telling us what results different policy alternatives are more likely to produce. They are useless for telling us which results are "better".

Quote
However it seems to me that your view requires some underlying assumptions that are contentious. The existance, efficiancy and even desireablity of a 'free markets' being just some of them for example.

Some markets exist that are freer than others that exist. Is this an "underlying assumption"? I'd call that a straightforward observation. Is market freedom "desirable"? Economics can't tell us our desires. It might help us REACH our desires, but that's something entirely separate.

Quote
Your assertions about Wal-Mart for example - depend on them functioning in a free market. If they are extremely dominant in one area then they are likely to be able to develop monopoly powers - undesireable from any point of view.

Again, you are complete blinkered by moralistical concerns. WalMart is successfully reaching WalMart's own goals, within the constrants within which WalMart must operate. Are their goals "good" ones? WalMart thinks so; that's why they're doing it. Indeed, I would argue that monopoly is the inevitable (and rapid) result of a completely unregulated free market. Which is just wonderful for the monopolists, but pretty grim for everyone else.

However, I seriously doubt that WalMart can achieve a true monopoly. They don't even control the largest segment of the retail pie in US history - that crown still belongs to A&P (remember them? Whatever became of A&P?)

Quote
The only corrective force available to the population is democracy.

I don't understand the context you intend. "Corrective" meaning what - to change WalMart's practices to more closely conform to YOUR preferences? Yes, incentive systems can be modified that will likely accomplish this - *at someone else's expense*. As a general rule, every change that helps anyone, hurts someone else. You seem desperately eager to pin "bad guy" and "good guy" labels on economic actors. I'm more concerned with "doing X usually results in Y, and here's how."

Quote
However in the USA - with no limits on campaign financing then rich corporations have the means to manipulate the popular vote to see that this doesn't happen.

I don't see your point, but this claim is simply not correct. There is a tradeoff here as well - the corporations have lots of money, but votes win campaigns. Money can influence votes to some extent, but that influence is nowhere near as comprehensive as you prefer to think. Historically, the party less favorable toward corporations wins about half the time.

Quote
The pressure from the West to adopt the 'free market' and privatisation has effectively delivered the wealth of the country into the hands of a few crooked individuals who now control the state.

In my observation (personal opinion only here), any market requires some regulation. What causes markets to grow, and middle classes to emerge, and national wealth to accumulate, is *competition*, not necessarily "freedom." So my personaly opinion is that a nation is best off (in terms of both per capita wealth and equitable distribution of that wealth) if freedom is restricted so as to guarantee competition.

Back to economics as a tool, it says nothing about whether monopolies are good or bad. Economics makes no moral judgment. It's a way to analyze economic consequences of policies.

Quote
However I don't think that either of us should pretend that our 'economic views' are either 'entirely neutral' - or free from value judgements.
No, but perhaps not the kind of value judgment you are stuck in. I find the Keynesian approach more comprehensible than the Austrian approach, and I think the monetarists have things backwards.

Date: 2006/01/05 09:47:59, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

Quote
I am not talking about economics as a field of study. I am talking about economic policy and activity as a series of decisions.

Then we have no disagreement. I'm talking explicitly about economics as a field of study. I've already agreed that people use their values to make ALL the judgments in their lives.

Quote
Either we allow pcb emmitters to dump thim into the waterways or we don't or we find some kind of a middle ground. I don't need to know much about rational self-interest to know that my personal morality dictates that I do not lend my vote to allow pollution to continue.

And exactly HERE is why ignorance of economics is hurting you. Presumably, these polluters are producing some product. They are selling it successfully, or they wouldn't be in business. Pollution reduces their costs. This reduction in costs means more money for something else. Let's say they use their savings to lower their prices. You purchase (in all ignorance) the least expensive, highest quality products you can. Theirs is one of them, BECAUSE they pollute. By purchasing their product, you are "lending your vote" in favor of their practices. Equally important, by NOT buying the more expensive product from the non-polluter, you are punishing him for absorbing the cost of being clean.

Quote
Walmart is shifting their costs to me through taxes by hiring people for less than a living wage and setting up systems to help those employees take advantage of  food stamps, rent assistance and publicly funded health care. Those are things that my taxes pay for. My sense of rational self-interest says that I should lend my ballot to the policies which force walmart to assume those costs. But I don't need to know about rational self-interest to know that I feel that way.

Economics can't tell you what to feel. But you might just for grins consider the tradeoffs from a different perspective. Let's look at the set of WalMart employees. They aren't being paid enough to live on by WalMart, and so you are effectively subsidizing WalMart by providing these people (through your taxes) with food stamps and the like. Yes? Now, lets shuffle the cost structure around a little bit. Let's reduce your taxes by the amount of the food stamps and other subsidies. You now have more money to spend. Let's raise WalMart's prices enough so that WalMart is now paying their employees enough so they don't NEED food stamps. Are you happy now? Yes, morally you are overjoyed.

And what has happened? Effectively, nothing at all. YOUR money is still being spent (but now through high prices rather than taxes) making WalMart's employees better off. You can spend it through taxes, or you can spend it through higher prices, or you can spend it through a higher risk of theft (burglary) by desperately poor people, etc. But now matter how you cut it, the same economic value as ever is coming out of your pocket. The ONLY thing you have gained is smug moral gratitude. You smote the wicked, you did!

Quote
Being as economic choices are largely moral, I get to define whether I think Bush's tax policies are fair and I don't think they are so regardless of whether my fair and your fair are similar

Of course, I didn't tell you MY definition of fair, I asked you to specify yours. I notice you haven't done so. You have CALLED your preferences "fair" but carefully not said what that means.

Quote
I chose cigarette and lottery very carefully because my point is that my individual sense of morality dictates that taking advantage of peoples' ignorance is morally wrong.

There isn't, to my knowledge, much if any correlation between smoking and "ignorance". I'm surrounded by brilliant engineers all day long. Most of them smoke. ALL of them know the consequences of smoking. So what are you talking about?

Quote
But I don't think you need to know much economics to make these kinds of decisions.
Yes, I agree. These are the kinds of statements that result from a fairly normal human need to assign values to everything. Neutrality is an acquired taste. The human brain is a dichotomizing machine - everything must be pigeonhold as good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral.

Quote
Cutting taxes on the super wealthy takes that tax money out of the public coffers. Period.

And if you put it in capital letters, do you think it would be even more true? In fact, it's only partially true. You need to ask, if this money were not taken from the super wealthy in income tax, where would it go? Into the stock market? But then it would suffer capital gains tax. Into consumption? But then it would suffer sales and excise taxes. Into building a factory? But then the employees would be paying the taxes. So the money WILL end up in the public coffers one way or another. Please follow this link. Your eyes will be opened.

Sure, since I'm not rich, I'd just LOVE to see the rich reduced to my meager level, while at the same time I'd be paying absolutely nothing in taxes. If such a policy had no economic consequences other than to shower me with money, I'd be overjoyed. Unfortunately such an economic policy will have countless drastic consequences, both direct and indirect, both immediate and downstream. Maybe if I pretended that doing so would be MORAL, those consequences would go away? Well, we can dream...

Date: 2006/01/05 10:44:58, Link
Author: Flint
Dean,

Quote
I was right to point out that you were introducing a 'particular economic point of view' into the Panda's thread.

I wasn't trying to do so in the sense of preferring monetarism or supply side economics or the like. But I suppose you're right that I place a moral value on the greatest good for the greatest number, and that I assign the value "good" to personal freedom, comfort, and potential. And I haven't taken a moral position with respect to WalMart in any way.

Quote
What does the water represent in either system?

In the case of the rising tide, the water represents per capita wealth, as measured by the market. If we want to use money to measure it (why not?), then the water is money.

Quote
A nice image to sell to the masses, but not one that demonstrates an economic insight

Im sorry if YOU got no insight out of it. Most people do. We have seen that economic policies can lead to the expansion or contraction of the *entire economy*, irrespective of the distribution of wealth within that economy. I encourage you to keep looking.

Quote
I said you seemed to be arguing your ideas with the certainty of mathematic proof - and you said you felt like you were trying to explain addition to me. Speaks for itself.

Apparently it doesn't. You used math, so I accommodated you. In fact, if you go over what I've written, you'll see that if anything I said just the opposite of what you're now trying to put into my mouth. Economies are unweildy, messy, complex adaptive feedback systems highly resistant to any organized analytical method, where we can try to read statistical tealeaves and intuit patterns and trends. I admit I was quite astonished that you'd see this (which heceaton interpreted as "economics can't tell us anything useful at all") as mathematical certainty. My writing skills must be terrible, if one reader sees me arguing certainty whereas another sees me as arguing purest guesswork.

Quote
If you accept that there  are situations where free markets are not 'efficient' -  then does impact on their desireabilty.

I can't parse this. Efficiency can be defined fairly rigorously, while desireability is something totally unrelated. So I don't know what you're trying to say.

Quote
We can make choices about how we let markets operate - we don't have to to let them operate freely from some 'higher principle'.

I'm not aware that there even ARE any higher principles. Economics tells us (at least somewhat) how economies will react to different strategies of management.

Quote
A contentious area perhaps - but the mere existance of the contention means you shouldn't state your ideas with the confidence of a 'mathematical proof'

I remain baffled by this. Where have I done so? Imagine if I kept saying that you should write in English and not keep writing in French. You might wonder after a while...

Quote
As a UK citizen I don't remember the other company you were talking about

I wonder how many Americans remember the Great Atlantic And Pacific Tea Company. My grandmother would, if she were still alive...

Quote
I meant 'corrective' to challenging monopoly power - something you agreed yourself was undesireable.

Not sure I see this either. I wrote that monopolies have two economic consequences: they reduce the size of the entire pie, and they polarize the wealth within economies. From an economic standpoint, this is a neutral observation. No, it's not my personal preference. But I'm trying to describe how economics works, and you're trying to pin me down to my moral preferences. As I wrote earlier, I'm trying to explain addition, and you can't get past trying to decide which numbers I like best.

Quote
I'm not sure about your 'party that is less favourable...

I'm just not up for explaining American politics to you.

Date: 2006/01/05 14:48:44, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

I'm having trouble following your train of thought.

Quote
No, what has happenned is that the other companies who feel responsible for their employees can compete against walmart on a level playing field.

Don't be silly. The playing field is a combination of the law of supply and demand, and the restrictions of community regulation. These are the same for everyone - these ARE the playing field. Everyone's playing field is the same in this case. Or are you arguing that your community has exempted WalMart from certain laws?

Quote
I would pay for this but I get it free. What a bargain!

And once again (this bears repeating, but never seems to get across), NOTHING is free. Everything that has a benefit, has a cost. Bargains, yes, these are possible. If you wish to do any "economics think" at all, the very first question you must ask is, if anyone enjoys any benefit from any action, WHO PAYS? Someone ALWAYS pays. There is no free lunch. Ever. Health benefits cost money. Someone pays that money. If WalMart pays that money, where does WalMart GET the money to pay with? They get it by raising their prices. You can think of this price rise as a tax on the community to pay for those health benefits. Nothing is free.

Quote
It doesn't matter what I think fair is, it only matters that I form my opinions and base my actions on what I think is "fair".

In any community, there are going to be as many different notions of "fair" as there are members of the community. Economics describes what all of these members do as a group. Even supposing that everyone bases their buying choices NOT on what they want or need, but on whom they think they are rewarding or punishing by making these purchases, people STILL act in their perceived self-interest. I might buy a widget because I think it's neat; you might buy a widget because you want to support the widget-maker's employers or punish WalMart (who doesn't sell widgets). So what? What matters is whether widgets show enough profit to stay in production.

Quote
There may be economists who say that deficits don't matter but If I don't pay my visa bill off completely every month I get charged interest. That is less efficient.

Again, you pretend your coin only has one side. In fact, paying interest is how your visa company stays in business. For them, your being a revolving customer is *highly* efficient. Remember, once again, for every benefit there is a cost, and for every cost there is a beneficiary.

Quote
speaking of my morality and introducing rational self interest again, doesn't increased spending on education help the economy?

Sigh. You're still trying to decide who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Over the long term, it's highly likely that paying taxes to support a good public education system has economic impacts. Whether these impacts are "helpful" is a value judgment. Economics might help you predict or evaluate the magnitude of the impacts. Economics can't tell you if that impact is good or bad.

Everything is a tradeoff in economics. Everything. Money spent on X can't be spent on Y. policies that help one group (defined as having them end up with more money) hurt another group (those whose money was transferred). The only exception to this concerns growing the economy as a whole. You say you're interested in sustaining rather than growing the economy. In that case, it's simple. EVERY dollar anyone gets, represents a dollar loss for someone else. So the only way to get a NET gain is by arbitraging in a sense: I sell you something you want more than the money I ask, while I want the money more than the item. We both think we came out ahead. But economically, we only made at best an incremental change in the market value of the item. Everything balances out.

I admit I would not be comfortable walking around in a world where everone and every organization had to be categorized as good or evil. In my world, the WalMart people have done an excellent job of taking advantage of their environment. They are like the English Sparrows of the retail world: smart, savvy, aggressive, highly successful competitors. But this doesn't blind me to the fact that WalMart's gain is, and MUST be, someone else's loss. Every benefit has a cost, and someone must pay it. If nobody paid any costs, nobody could benefit.

I remember talking on the net with someone who had spent a year somewhere in Europe, and returned enthusiastic about the "free" medical care. I attempted to point out that nothing is free, but sometimes the costs are (deliberately) hidden and indirect. She flat refused to listen. She KNEW health care was free, dammit, she got sick and they treated her and didn't charge her anything. If that's not free, what is? I tried to point out that one of the costs of that "free" medical care was a 20% unemployment rate. Nope, no communication. What does unemployment have to do with not being charged for an aspirin?

So I never reached the point where I could show her that this "safety net" for the poor in fact only shoved costs around. To pay for free medical care, the government was taxing their people at rates upwards of 90%. To get employees, companies were forced to pay wages MUCH too high to permit them to employ the unskilled. So the unskilled STAYED unskilled, and unemployed. Which meant taxes had to stay high to pay for their "free" aspirin. And of course, all poor are not equal. Poor of the "wrong" ethnic background were the last to be hired and first to be let go.

Which leads to yet another cost of "free" medical care, if you've been following events in France lately. It seems that *somebody* noticed who was paying the brunt of these costs. The French were trying for a free lunch, by sweeping the cost onto their Muslim population. Eventually, it stopped working so well.

So once again, we all want lots of benefits. Not asking who pays for them, and how (in what form) that payment is made, doesn't make the costs go away.

Date: 2006/01/05 15:47:16, Link
Author: Flint
JimB:

You understand, I'm not an economist. Economics is something I'm interested in, and I took quite a few courses in it in graduate school, and participated in a few economic studies afterwards. But it's not my profession.

Still, if you've had the fortitude to trudge through this thread, I can only appreciate the effort you've made.

Date: 2006/01/06 04:45:03, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

If you disagree with the gist of what I'm saying, I'm glad to discuss and even concede that you're probably right. We surely both recognize that nearly any statement about economics is going to have exceptions or be subject to debate.

Quote
Besides the pure perception issues, an accelerating highly skewed distribution of wealth will have long-term unhealthy consequences for the nation.

So long as we agree that "unhealthy" is a value judgment. Highly skewed distribution IS a consequence of certain policies. There are indications that this is a positive-feedback tendency, feeding on itself. If you suggest a few methods by which this skew can be reduced, we might consider the side-effects of those methods. Right now, the top 10% of income-receivers are paying HALF of the US national income taxes. So maybe income taxation isn't a good method?

Quote
Funny that those business for whom it "makes no difference" are pouring millions of dollars into lobbying for laws to allow purchasing pollution tax credits.

A puzzle to me too. My speculation is that these businesses are hoping to better quantify and predict their operating costs. Fines can be capricious, and criminal penalties can't be ruled out.

Quote
Personally as a policy matter I favor the criminal approach - throw the polluter (the CEO who orders it done) into jail.

Yes, this is certain to be perceived as an unacceptably high price by the CEO. It might be perceived as a bargain by the board of directors. That might be an interesting battle...

Quote
You began this all by indicate it was a matter of ignorance that a layperson questioned the  appropriateness of policy ideas such as tax reductions for the wealthy, etc. This implies that you think you know what global economic effects these policies will have and that they are "good".

I disagree. Perhaps my style is smug (though this seems an eye of the beholder thing), but we've already gone over this. I didn't question "appropriateness" in the sense I think you mean. I questioned the presumed impacts. Let's say someone writes "Fires are bad things. Let's throw more wood on them to satisfy them so they'll go away." If you come along and point out that the recommended action will have unintended consequences, you are NOT commenting one way or another on whether fires are bad. So let's say that someone jumps up and claims you are defending fires. It sounds that way to him. Is he correct?

Quote
At the same time you admit no economist has a real good idea of how these policies actually work in the real world, except for that they do know the immediate effects on the people that matter (i.e. the rich).

So long as we agree that the "people that matter" are the intended voting constituency. The reason those below the median income pay essentially none of the income taxes is because they have half the votes, but make so little money that revenues aren't damaged much by eliminating their income taxes.

Quote
This is why Dean sees you as having mathematical certainty (you smuggly *know* that certain policies will have "rising tide" effects)

Then this is a failure of presentation on my part. I observe, from multiple historical experiences, that certain policies have nearly always had "rising tide" effects, while other policies have not, or had the opposite. So I "know" this in the sense that I "know" that if you invest your money, you'll end up with more of it. You can find countless exceptions to this rule of thumb, of course, but on the whole it's true for reasons fairly well understood.

We're really talking about two parameters here: Total wealth creation within a political economy, and wealth distribution within that economy. Economists think they understand, in general terms, what factors influence both of these things, and in what directions. There is some debate as to how independent these parameters are.

Quote
Heck, you even wrote (seriously) that Walmart's strategy is to have the lowest prices. Bzzzzt! Their strategy is to make the most money for themselves; low average prices to gain customers and ultra-low costs through any cost shifting they can get away with (whether legal or not) are only the tactics used to execute that strategy.

From what I have read about WalMart (quite a bit), you are simply wrong. WalMart makes lots of money. What do they DO with that money? Do they pay their upper management exorbitant salaries? No. Do they pay out high dividends to their stockholders? No. Do they pay decent wages or bonuses to their rank and file? No. So where DOES the money go? By observation, WalMart converts their cost savings (however achieved) into lower prices. By comparative industrial standards, they aren't doing this to get personally rich. Their profit margins aren't exceptional. So you have fallen one step short here. You notice that WalMart does everything possible to reduce their costs, some of it legally shaky, some of it hard on their employees or on other retailers in the community. You're right; they do this. What I pointed out was, they translate these things into lower prices. It is WalMart's corporate policy. If it did not succeed, people wouldn't shop there so exclusively as to skew community economies so badly.

So I repeat: their goal is to minimize their prices. NOT to pocket high profits, which they do not make.

Quote
Ok, I'll bite. Please provide a mathematical definition for efficiency of a market and provide the units (you can claim it's dimensionless if you like). Now tell me ...

Here's a start. I think I will rescind my claim of "fairly rigorous", since this is misleading enough to be incorrect. I had intended to state that the notions of efficiency and desirability are qualitatively different. Desirability is purely subjective; efficiency is not (at least, not intended to be).


Quote
Finally, I'd like to comment that you've got the usual conservative straw-man list of "which is fair?" tax strategies; none of them are fair if they're based on income. As I pointed out with the Paris example, for those with large amounts of capital they can continue to grow and spend their money without ever incurring any tax liability at all. A fair tax scheme might be one in which every person pays a fixed fraction of the values of all of their assets each year, coupled with a VAT tax to cover consumption.

We are probably going to have to disagree here. "Fair" is a pure value judgment. Most parents with more than one child can understand this. Is it "fair" to treat them equally, when their desires or needs differ? Is it "fair" to accommodate their differences, if one needs more than another? Maybe the parent is "fair" if the children perceive no favoritism?

If I follow you, you are proposing a tax based on wealth instead of income. Hopefully in practice this won't devolve into a "whack the investor" proposal. If you and I have the same income, but you spend every penny you make, while I scrimp and save so as to have as much savings as possible, then you pay no tax while I pay some fixed percent. To counter this problem, you propose that an extra tax be levied on consumption, which would affect you more than me. Yes, it would extract a bunch of money from those who inherit a fortune, win the lottery, or whatever. Hey, I'd be willing to give it a try and see what unanticipated consequences we'd need to adjust for later.

However, I hope we agree that Congress is psychologically incapable of leaving any tax structure alone. In their view, the tax system has two primary purposes: to fund government activities and programs, and to modify public behaviors through social engineering. Which of these two purposes is more important, they probably couldn't say. But within minutes, the "flat tax" would be encrusted with many thousands of exceptions, VAT rates would be highly variable, no two alike. Politicians from poor districts would trade exceptions for certain classes of wealth (perhaps no tax on houses), in exchange for exceptions to certain classes of poverty (maybe no VAT on food).

I predict it would also be politically difficult to impose a wealth tax. A few years ago, some politician (from a poorer district) proposed that inheritance be taxed to draconian levels, perhaps 90% or more. He figured that the poor (who had nothing to inherit) would support this proposal, so he was astonished to find that the poor opposed it overwhelmingly. Turned out, after some investigation, that the poor realized that the only chance they had at any real money was some unexpected inheritance. To be remembered in the will of some wealthy person. They knew the chances of this were infinitesimal, but they were NOT willing to give up what they saw as their only chance altogether.

The picture is of income as a hose to the bucket of wealth. The hose leaks, because the government taps into it every which way they can dream up. But dammit, whatever reaches that bucket is MINE, safe from government confiscation. Why, even if I won the lottery (the poor person is thinking), I can't take the lump sum and invest it wisely; the government will extract a pound of flesh out of it every year until it's gone.

So what I'm saying is, I don't believe most people would regard a wealth tax as "fair". People want, they dream of, beating the system. A system you can't beat might be "fair" but it won't be popular.

Date: 2006/01/06 04:53:34, Link
Author: Flint
celtic_elk:

Quote
If we level a pollution fine of $X, or offer a pollution license for $X, the polluter will choose either of these options provided that X is less than the amount they would have to spend on an alternative waste disposal option.  If we make it more expensive to pollute than to do the "right thing," they'll do the "right thing".

I agree. They'll minimize the cost of doing business, whatever the path of least cost may be.

Quote
There are, however, other effects to the choice of fine vs. license, which are tied in to the perception of the company by the public (law-breaking vs. law-abiding) and the subsequent impact on demand for the polluter's product (assuming that there is an equivalent product available for an equivalent price).  This analysis discards the assumption of perfect rationality

Not entirely. Corporate "good will" is quantified and on the books, however speculative the assigned amount. But there have been enough cases of bad corporate citizenship to calibrate "good will" a little bit better than SWAG. I've often wondered if all the money Philip Morris has spent on anti-smoking commercials has paid off in increased cigarette sales.

Date: 2006/01/06 05:31:01, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I'd be interested in your answers to these questions, whether or not you're a scientist. Your sniping at Dean is of course very clever, but not very informative.

Date: 2006/01/06 10:44:28, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

I'm sure we aren't communicating, but I'll keep trying anyway.

Quote
You are assuming a world where consequenses are irrelevant

No, I'm assuming a world where consequences can be understood, predicted to some extent, and managed.

Quote
a purely "economics" academic world where the tradeoffs are simply to be measured and categorized.

But if your goal is to alter the tradeoffs more to your liking, surely it's in your interest to know what they are, and to be able to measure and categorize them so you know if your efforts are paying off.

Quote
It seems to me that you are saying that it is fine what walmart does as long as it's within the rules.

Absolutely. The rules are created to be followed. If following the rules produces undesirable side effects, then change the rules to prevent this.

Quote
So when I said that shifting the costs back to walmart would be good because I would get something for free and that that would be a more level playing field, I was making a value judgement

No, you were making an ERROR. Nothing is free. What is WalMart supposed to do if you change the rules to increase their costs? Open up a private mint and coin money to pay them? No, WalMart will have to raise prices. Are higher prices "good" for the community? By observation, community members given the opportunity to pay higher prices to other retailers, do not do so.

Now, what you seem to be recommending is that if the members of the community want lower prices, then they are wrong and you are going to be "moral" and FORCE them to pay higher prices anyway.

And once again, there are no special "WalMart rules". The playing field IS level. WalMart is simply a more skillful player.

Quote
I prefer a world where business cant use my taxes as profit. Especially when it does so much damage to the communities.

But all these damaged community members *continue* to shop at WalMart. So are you arguing that everyone else is stupid, or that they are all immoral?

You sound like a religious fanatic. If nobody else will believe what you know is true, you will MAKE them behave "morally" anyway. And how about their preferences, which they express with every purchase? I guess other people's preferences don't much matter to you, because yours are RIGHT and theirs arent. Sheesh.

Quote
If you are saying that walmart doesn't do damage to communities and that walmart is perfectly ok because it is logical then say that.

I'm saying that we have a rule structure, and WalMart operates within that structure. You sound like a little kid in class who gets a C grade and blames the kid who got an A for taking unfair advantage of the grading system.

Quote
If you are saying that walmart doesn't do damage to communities

WalMart *changes* communities. You dislike the changes. WalMart's customers seem delighted with the NET changes - the very fact they all shop there shows that lower prices are more valuable to them than the consequences (the negative values). The community has spoken, and spoken so loudly their preferences cannot be denied. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some opinion poll discovered that the community people wanted BOTH the low prices and the mom and pop stores (where they would not shop), PROVIDED they weren't taxed to subsidize the small expensive shops. In other words, people want the benefits, but don't wish to pay the costs. And indeed, some communities have refused to allow WalMart to build there. From what I have read, the people are very self-satisfied that they have "preserved" their community values - while they all drive down to the next town's WalMart to get those low prices!

Quote
Saying that what we now know about walmart's tactics isn't important because them's the rules is pretty callous

Oh climb down! Now that we know in detail the consequences of our rule system, we can make *intelligent and informed* changes. Economics can help us predict the consequences of our changes. The rules still haven't changed: For every benefit, there is a cost. I notice you STILL haven't addressed what that cost is or who pays it.

guthrie:

Quote
An extreme example being drugs and child porn, there exist markets for both, but they are judged to be dangerous and harmful by most people, hence ultimately they are suppressed.

These are excellent examples of what you don't seem to realize. What we have done by *attempting* (but most emphatically NOT succeeding) to suppress these, is to drive up their cost to the consumer, vastly (by orders of magnitude) increasing the profits to the sellers, whom we have made both organized and wealthy. That's how supply and demand work.

And this is true because the market IS amoral. The market doesn't care that policy makers are trying to protect the delicate sensibilities of people by telling them what they're not allowed to like. The market cares that the effort at suppression rearranges the costs and the benefits.

It's no accident that drug dealers funnel huge gobs of campaign contributions into the coffers of the anti-drug candidates. They know what side their bread is buttered on.

Quote
And lets not get into differentiating when you are acting because of a moral principle, or because it just suits you.

I think BWE is arguing that there's no difference there. Whatever you prefer, whether it be chocolate over vanilla or red over blue, is a moral principle to him.

Date: 2006/01/06 11:38:41, Link
Author: Flint
I wonder what units cleverness is measured in. Wits?

Date: 2006/01/06 13:15:24, Link
Author: Flint
guthrie:

Quote
I think if you actually asked most people about child porn, they would certainly ban it.

I'm quite sure you're correct. I recall a poll where the Bill of Rights was reworded to say functionally the same things, and people overwhelmingly disapproved of nearly every one of them.

I agree these bans (remember prohibition?) are always done for moral reasons. And history is pretty clear on this one: banning things people want to do but do not want *other people* to do, never works very well. It's pretty obvious that we can't ban abortion; what we can do is make abortion prohibitively costly for the poor, much more costly for everyone else, and that these high costs will benefit those providing the abortion and related (i.e. transportation, underground clinics, quacks with coathangers, etc.) services.

Alan Fox:

Quote
But how is it any better at prediction than fortune telling?

Consider: can evolution help us make predictions? Well, much like economics, it can make *some* predictions very accurately, but doesn't help much with other predictions. The economic prediction that changing cost structures will change resource allocation decisions in known ways is a slam dunk, like the evolutionary prediction that succeeding generations will share genes with their ancestors. The economic prediction that a recession or boom is coming, well, that's like predicting what the next cat to evolve will look like.

Sir Toejam:

Quote
there's the way we like to think of market forces in general, and then there's reality.

No, the reality is that the market is amoral. the market really does not care what we do. Supply and demand can be manipulated, and the market will follow.

Quote
would you have any objections to free-market secondary school systems?

Almost no objection - I think light regulation would be helpful, things like your standardized tests. Some way to ensure that schooling is actually taking place. Also, I personally see social value in a fairly common knowledge base.

Quote
It's unrealistic to assume free market forces to be amoral, or not to be influenced by moral interpretations of one kind or another. I'm sure you realize this.

Probably, though I might be expressing it differently. Free market forces are amoral. Lower the temperature and people will put on their coats. Certainly I don't deny that moral precepts influence market manipulations. That's what I was discussing above with guthrie - make drugs illegal for moral reasons, change the profit structure to make dealers so wealthy they can't buy banks fast enough.

Quote
It's not realistic to view Walmart's success or failure purely on the basis of free market economics.

I don't understand quite what you intend here. WalMart is successful because their business model works. They have accurately identified a public preference, and focused on it with narrow zeal. Allowing that they are subject to regulation like any other business, how is this not a free market behavior? This looks to me like the canonical better mousetrap.

Quote
Nor is it realistic to presume morality plays no part in free market forces.

This is a very different formulation. As BWE has made abundantly clear, people's individual morality may play a strong, perhaps decisive role in their rational assessment of their self-interest. Attempts to legislate morality, though, are invariably attempts to frustrate the perceived self-interests of others, where we ourselves are otherwise not directly affected. (For the sake of clarity, I'm defining moral legislation here as the prohibition of economic transactions whereby all of the parties to the transactions consider themselves satisfied.) And THOSE attempts, like the war on drugs or laws against abortion, don't change market "forces" per se, they change either supply or demand, and market forces adjust accordingly. Morality this ain't.

Quote
I hope that really isn't the point you were really trying to make, and that you really meant to just be arguing for the value of predictive models in economics.

I admit I'm not clear what your point is. People make decisions about economic transactions (the exchange of goods and services, immediate or postponed) for a wide variety of reasons. Change the costs, change the incentives, and the pattern of transactions changes accordingly. Yes, there are inelasticities, but when gas prices rise, gas sales drop.

Maybe the term "morality" needs to be set forth more concretely? I see nothing wrong, personally, in Henry Ford putting buggy-whip makers out of business, nor in WalMart putting mom&pop retailers out of business. These aren't moral issues as I see it, these are competition issues. Produce what the public wants (regardless of WHY they want it), and you will succeed at the expense of those who do not do the same. Where is the morality here?

Date: 2006/01/06 13:29:42, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
FLINT!  ask yourself why so many americans support ID, then think about the answer to your own question.

Again, can you explain a little more? What's obvious to you may not be obvious to others. I would say so many Americans support ID because doing so is in their perceived self-interest. They know science works really well, they know God exists and the Bible is His word. They WANT science to find God, so that there will be no cognitive conflict. ID makes the claim that science HAS found God. Hallelujah! They get their cake and eat it too. Who could ask for more?

So BWE and I were talking about knowledge: Yeah, WalMart offers low prices, but you (the community member) don't get low prices for free. You pay a very real community cost for those low prices. But you have to KNOW, that your are paying a cost, and what that cost is, to make an informed decision about where to shop or how to modify the rules so as to change WalMart's cost structure and incentives. Education matters.

Similarly with ID, you have to know something about science and something about ID to recognize that the claim that ID is a marriage between science and God is a false claim, based more on wishful thinking than anything else. Hey, I'm participating on these forums because I see real value in education.

(I've never even HEARD of southpark. Is it a TV show? I don't watch TV...)

Alan Fox:

Quote
And are these predictive models better than fortune telling?

Yes where they are appropriately applied, no where they are not. Economists are not morons; they know what their theories explain and predict well, and where their theories are worthless. Unfortunately, where their theories are least helpful just happens to be where people, especially politicians, most demand answers. Most economists I have read are quite ready to admit that their profession is ill-equipped to predict the future in these ways, and that they are speculating with little more basis than anyone else.

I can fairly accurately predict that if the price of Brand X canned peas doubles, you will switch to another brand. I might even be able to predict the future price of canned peas, though this is like predicting the weather - accurate overnight, worth taking with some salt within 3 days, fiction beyond that.

Date: 2006/01/06 13:58:07, Link
Author: Flint
Alan:

Actally, you raise an important point. Supply and demand are manipulated all the time for political reasons, which is one of the things that impedes good predictions. Maybe economics can help us (mostly through analysis of past situations regarded as sufficiently analogous) say if we do X, we'll get more Y. But then policies change again. And again.

Also, you are correct that economists are much like expert trial testimony. For $400 an hour, anyone can hire a *qualified* expert to testify to anything. And so politicians hire economists to find plausible ways to explain how policies intended to reward or attract votes or money, are "good for the nation." And of course, ANY economic policy in the short run will be good for SOME of the nation. So it's not all hot air. And the long run is politically irrelevant; policies will change before then.

Quote
Too much blogging.

For years now, I confess. On the net, I can pretend I'm not a dog.

Date: 2006/01/06 14:26:35, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
uh, you have GOT to be kidding!  standardized testing itself would NOT be considered "light" regulation under a free market scholastic system.

I don't want to quibble over adjectives. The way I interpreted your question, free market secondary education would be much like free market colleges - pretty much what we have in place today. I don't know where we'd draw the line and say "Beyond X amount of regulation, this isn't free market anymore." I'll debate this if you wish, though.

Quote
You really are living in a dream world if you think a free market educational system would actually create anything other than complete dogma in a very short time.

Then I will continue to dream. As I said, the college system is a free market system, with a very wide variety of choice among competing private colleges. Do we see "complete dogma"? Well, only if "a very short time" exceeds the several hundred years the private college system has existed, since it hasn't happened yet. Or are you going to argue that YOUR education was simply a matter of swallowing and memorizing "complete dogma"?

Quote
I was thinking you were just arguing from a postion of theoretical economics, but now i see you have totally swallowed many false presmises that simply don't jive with the real world.

For my part, I've long suspected that outside your narrow specialty, you were a walking sloganeer, and I see that I was correct. For you, the rest of the world is "Anything I choose to believe so long as I remain too ignorant to know better." Which you are defending with all-too-familiar tactics.

Quote
You live in fantasyland if you really beleive that truly free-market economies actually work.  or true democracies, for the same reasons.

You really must define your terms, otherwise you come across as a brainless ideologue. Maybe you ARE one, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

I think a fully free-market economy doesn't exist, has never existed, and cannot exist. It's simply a useful conception in model-building. Same with a true democracy. Let's assume a spherical cow in a vacuum - no, I mean let's assume everyone has a "vote button" hooked to a national network, and the entire population votes on every issue and proposal. Let's also presume that the vote is implemented immediately on being taken. How long would any government last? A few minutes? Sorry, but I'm aware that a great deal of regulation and inertia and resistance and friction (and checks and balances) must be built in for either an economy or a government to exist and operate effectively.

Quote
The reason so many folks shop at Walmart is exactly the same reason folks end up supporting ID; pure ignorance of the consequences.

And are you proposing that all these people, who used to shop elsewhere, used to be LESS ignorant? People shop at WalMart because they perceive that they get good value for their money. And indeed, they DO get good value for their money. At a cost, to be sure. As a matter of fact, I think your entire pathetic display of spleen here is because you perceive that I am not a devout member of your Church of Anti-Walmart. Whereas, if you could set your faith aside long enough to check, you will find that I have NEVER ONCE taken a moral position about WalMart, good or bad. And I've done that for several purposes, only one of which is to use WalMart as an example of economic costs and benefits. I'll admit, one reason is to see who starts hyperventilating, assuming that since I haven't taken their position, I must therefore OPPOSE their position. Sound familiar?

Still, I'm amused that you have dichotomized this issue to the point where the only two choices are to HATE WalMart, or to suffer "pure ignorance." Let us now pray, right?

Quote
I worry for you, truly, that on the one hand you can clearly see the problems inherent with teaching ID theory, yet on the other can't see the problems with the assumption that Walmart is simple free-market economics in action.

From my perspective, I see that you are adamantly opposed to WalMart, and like any creationist, you are simply not open to ANY analysis of how they operate, what the consequences are, why they're successful, what we as a community may wish to change to improve matters, or anything else that might include facts. In your mind "WalMart" is like the word "evolution" in the mind of Pat Robertson - a trigger to stop thinking and start emoting and sloganeering.

Quote
With that viewpoint, i really can't see any reason to continue this discussion further.

And this is ALSO much like a creationist. Having preached, having told the sinner he's mentally incompetent, you stalk off in self-congratulation. As an economist, you're a good biologist, I suppose. You don't know the facts, you don't know the theory, but you DO know what's True, and nothing else matters. Bless you, brother.

(And what's ironic is, I also see WalMart as a symptom of something deeply wrong with our regulatory system. Sorry that my approach is more analytical, and less emotional as you clearly would prefer (and practice)).

Date: 2006/01/06 14:38:27, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

OK, carrying right along here...

Quote
it is rarely the case (ever?) that another's version of morality does not directly affect our own in a public circumstance.

Yes, I'd say it's more rare than otherwise, if only because on a larger scale moral preferences tend to average out. But of course, this still depends on the definition of morality.

Here's an example. I drive down the road, unaffected by those coming the other direction who stay on their side of the line. Are we obeying the rules of the road for moral reasons? If yes, then you are correct, morality determines just about everything. If no, then morality determines relatively little. So definitions matter.

Quote
hence we have a legal system to regulate the inevitable conflicts.

Same issue here. Is every conflict of interests a moral conflict? Let's say I hire you to shingle my roof, and the next week it rains and my roof leaks. I sue you. Do we have a MORAL issue here? I wouldn't say so. You might.

Quote
would you prefer a laisez faire system instead?

Since you ask, absolutely not. Laissez faire systems as I understand them don't work - they tend to reward cheating and other mendacity and punish industry and honesty. Regulation is a practical necessity.

Quote
truly, i don't think you have thought this out very well.

Truly, I don't think you really understand what I've been trying to say.

Quote
I've seen far better and more coherent arguments from you on subjects you haven't claimed to have spent time studying.

Think just for a moment. You have seen far more coherent arguments from me on subjects you know quite thoroughly. This is the first time the playing field has moved from where YOU are more knowledgeable, to where I am. Does this suggest anything to you about how your perceptions are influenced by your knowledge? Maybe a little bit?

Date: 2006/01/06 14:50:53, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
I've seen far better and more coherent arguments from you on subjects you haven't claimed to have spent time studying.

On further reflection, my irony meter needs replacement. I remember the many times you have implored creationists to just READ, follow these links, INFORM yourselves, know what you're talking about, base your objections (if any remain) on actual knowledge. But of course, the creationists don't NEED knowledge, they have Truth.

And here we are, in a field where I know much more than you do, and the pattern is impossible to miss. I implore you to educate yourself, but you're content to tell me I'm incoherent, don't know what I'm talking about, you have the Truth. You are MORAL. This absolves you from actual, like, learning or anything. You think, knowing little or nothing about the field, that you can tell OTHERS they "haven't thought it out well." You know this because, well, you have FAITH.

Just as a mental exercise, turn it around. Imagine that I, who admit I have no biological training, education, or experience at all, tell you that YOUR biological arguments are incoherent, and that you haven't thought them through. Just how patient would you be with me? I doubt you'd be any more patient than you are with the creationists whose techniques you are mimicing with impressive verisimilitude.

But as I wrote earlier, economics is one of those subjects like politics or psychology where everyone considers themselves an automatic expert. And indeed, this is one of the factors that make the field difficult. So much to UNlearn, so little willingness to admit it.

Date: 2006/01/06 16:56:09, Link
Author: Flint
After a little MORE reflection, maybe there's no irony here after all. Sir Toejam dismisses those whose knowledge is dwarfed by his own (and who disagree with him), as ignorant, while those who are admittedly without much knowledge (but who agree with him) are regarded as "coherent". Sir Toejam dismisses those whose knowledge (in other fields) dwarfs his own (and who disagree with him), as incoherent. Presumably those who agree with him, however ignorant of the subject, would be regarded as entirely reasonable.

The salient common factor here may not be knowledge, but rather agreement. And in this respect, Sir Toejam is *precisely* like a creationist. Knowledge doesn't matter, logic doesn't matter, experience or education doesn't matter. His opinion is the ONLY yardstick. In his mind, someone becomes a coherent thinker to the extent that one agrees with him. His opinions may be based on no knowledge whatsoever (think creationist), but what does knowledge or understanding have to do with being correct?

Maybe I'm wrong about the merits of a liberal education (in the old-fashioned sense of an education that exposes the student to multiple viewpoints about multiple subjects. The original PhD where the Ph denoted broad understanding across all disciplines). Sir Toejam, I'm willing to consider, may be truly authoritative on aquatic biology. But maybe we're seeing something analogous to famous actors pontificating on politics: he KNOWS he's an authority within his specialty, therefore he MUST be equally authoritative on anything where he has an opinion, however ignorant. The examples of even world-class scientists making truly idiotic "ex cathedra" statements WAY outside their field are legion.

Personally, I really don't know whether the extreme reluctance to admit either error or ignorance is a function of education, specialization, morality, or character. It's surely an error to seek a single villain in any case. Personally, I suspect that the tendency to either listen or reject, when someone knowledgeable in another field speaks, is a character trait.

Date: 2006/01/06 19:56:54, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
and now I'm confused.  a true free market system IS a laissez faire system.

You have proposed a definition here. I would argue that an unregulated market would very quickly become an oligarchy. Free markets require continuous competition. Competition is unnatural and must be enforced. This calls for rather extensive regulation, since it's in the vested interest of the primary economic actors to circumvent such regulation and suppress competition. The result, in evolutionary terms is called an "arms race". It never ends. The primary actors keep finding ways to circumvent competition, the regulators keep stuffing a cork in it.

Quote
what's hard to miss, is my shock that you would actually propose the value of a true free market economy in the face of the utter failure of laisez faire economics throughout history.

What baffles me is that what I've written could be interpreted as support for such a system. It's not a workable system. Rules are the rule! Anything resembling a free market requires continuous focused regulation. But regardless of the regulation (i.e. no matter how pervasive, how biased or directed, how micromanaged) people will STILL act in their perceived self-interest.

Quote
the same is true of pure democracies, or pure communism.  they fail because of the nature of humans, not because in principle the theories or models are flawed, but because they can't take into account the variability and vagaries of human behavior.

I don't know if this is very defensible, because of both the variation in such systems, and the malleability of human nature. I'm willing to agree that there ARE limits and boundaries to human nature, and that systems pushing the envelope are dubious. Consider: marriages are pretty close to pure communism, but they work. Small towns, deciding things by voice vote at town meetings, are pretty close to pure democracy, but they work. Why? I have my theories, of course, but this question is important. I suggest (as a proposal, not a doctrine) that people as a species evolved in groups large enough to constitute communities (people are gregarious), but small enough so that everyone in the group knew everyone else. In such an environment, morality was important; social status was critical. Social, political, and economic systems were workable in 200-member groups that are NOT workable in 200-million person nations.

Quote
greed is NOT good.  this is a myth.

And THIS is a Doctrine! Greed isn't necessarily bad; context matters. Personally, I think greed is a given. Any practicable market regulation must assume greed. But it can easily be argued that unregulated greed ultimately results in a net loss for the community.

Quote
just like a true democracy, a true free market economy would NOT result in a better standard of living, or a better set of products, than a regulated economy would.

We're back to battling opinions here. I think "pure" democracy would self-destruct very quickly. I think a "pure" free market would do the same. The "invisible hand" presumes unrestricted competition. When competition doesn't happen, economic benefits become polarized.

Quote
Funny, but I've heard your exact same arguments before; economists and politicians using them were often termed "Social Darwinists".

Not quite so funny, your ignorance of the subject has resulted in a serious misunderstanding. Ignorance has that effect. "Social Darwinsim" has historically made the bogus claim (by the "haves") that there is a biological justification for the economic and social status quo. Of course, there is no such justification. Economic circumstances have no biological component.

Quote
Oh, and if you want to ever discuss anything with me ever again, or avoid having me hound YOU on every thread, I highly suggest you stop taking this debate to other threads.

Where direct parallels exist, I will point them out. I hope I've made my point: you've been rather reflexive in dismissing those not knowledgeable in your field, and equally reflexive in dismissing those MORE knowledgeable in THEIR fields. This doesn't reflect well on you.

Quote
How could you possibly understand the value of a classic education if you never had one?

What do you consider a "classic education"? I'm quite curious. I'd certainly be willing to compete with you in terms of total degrees, total number of degress in different disciplines, total number of areas studied, total number or credit hours, and so forth. I was a "professional student" for *decades*. But perhaps you're equating a "classic educuation" with what YOU studied?

Quote
calling me a creationist is really a form of projection, there Flint.

I pointed out that the technique you are using is a quintessential creationist technique. Of course I expect your response to be a combination of denial and accusation. That's ANOTHER creatinist technique. What would be dazzlingly NON-creationist would be to say "Maybe you know more about what YOU studied than I do, since I didn't study it." Of course, creationists dismiss knowledge as irrelevant...

Quote
show me any time in history where a true laisez faire economy ever produced a stable and viable result.

A true laissez faire economy would be extremely unstable, if it were ever attempted. To my knowedge, it never has been. What's amusing to me is that I'm considered a far-left winger on the Ayn Rand-inspired forums, for my insistence that regulation is an absolute necessity. Depressingly, I've never found anyone sophisticated enough to discuss what sorts of regulation are appropriate, what regulatory limits might be imposed, what enonomic consequences might derive from various types of regulation, and so on. Nonetheless, I'm convinced that the KIND of regulation matters. We might wish to discuss this, once the necessities are dispensed with. Meanwhile, real-life politicaians have little choice but to deal with these questions, and do so daily.

Quote
show me any economic periodical that espouses the virtues of a free-market educational system over a public one, and provides data to support such an argument.

This is a confusing request. I'm not trying to equivocate here, I'm trying to say something. Early in American history, in the days where the frontier was real, education was totally unregulated. Of course, the quality varied with the capabilities of the instructor(s). Whether or not the students of those schools were "better educated" than the students who went through the Eastern Establishment schools is impossible to quantify. Then as now, I would expect the best of either system to far exceed the worst of either system.

But moving up to the present, you still find this a problematical issue. In inner cities, where public schools are battleground day care centers, education is a happy accident. You can easily find home-schooled and private-schooled students who have won national science awards, won national science-fair trophies, won national (you name it - chess competitions, spelling bees, etc.). With even LESS effort, you can find home-schooled students who can't find their ass with both hands. Indeed, the argument against free-market educational systems is that the variation in their success is unacceptably wide. Which is why I supported such systems, but with regulation. I proposed that they be like the college system, where accreditation matters. My unabashed goal is to allow each child to maximize his/her potential. My observation is the public schools for the most part (with exceptions at both extremes) hew to the mundane median; private schools occupy the extremes. I quite sincerely don't know how to inspire both public and private (and home) schools to do a uniformly outstanding job.

Quote
You may have studied some economics texts, but your knowledge of history appears astoundingly bad.

Accusations like this are hard to credit without any concrete illustrations. All I can say is, I studied both political and economic history extensively, MANY credit hours. I like to think I learned something in those courses. If my knowledge is "astoundingly bad" in comparison to yours, how much political and economic history have YOU studied? If I said that your knowledge of biology were "astoundingly bad" (never having studied it myself), would you feel personally remiss? Or would you dismiss my ignorant conclusions for what they'd be?

Quote
I can only conclude that this is the result of that "lack of classical education" that you espouse as a virtue.

And I espoused this where?

Quote
stil there Flint? or are you busy trying to invade yet other threads with this?

No, I'm still taking you seriously and trying to answer you rationally.

Quote
remember, it wasn't me who got mad that folks disagreed with me

Yes it was, and yes I remember. I haven't become angry at anyone yet. I'm still trying to communicate, rather than taking my ball and going home.

Quote
so who is acting like the creationist?

so far, YOU have been. In spades. But as I say, I haven't given up.

Date: 2006/01/09 03:04:48, Link
Author: Flint
Interesting editorial by George Will. I don't know if it's kosher to reproduce it here, but since it's worth reading...

Quote
"The taxing power of government must be used to provide revenues for legitimate government purposes. It must not be used to regulate the economy or bring about social change."

 --President Ronald Reagan, State of the Union Message, Feb, 18, 1981

"(b)no portion of the proceeds of such issue is to be used to provide (including the provision of land for) any private or commercial golf course, country club, massage parlor, hot tub facility, suntan facility, racetrack or other facility used for gambling, or any store the principle business of which is the sale of alcholic beverages for consumption off premises."

 --Title 26, Internal Revenue Code (tax exemption requirements for qualified redevelopment bonds)


Well, yes, certainly no massage parlors. Or hot tubs, ofcourse; one shudders to think what happens in those. And tanning facilities, too, are the devil's playgrounds.

As for racetracks, although state governments promoting their lotteries are America's most energetic advocates of gambling, government should err on the side of caution when protecting whatever this tax provision protects by frowning on racetracks, hot tubs and other things.

This peculiar wrinkle in the tax code, first approved the year after President Reagan said the tax code should not be used to leverage social change, makes certain projects ineligible to be financed by industrial redevelopment bonds that are subsidized by preferential tax treatment.

This provision recently popped back into the news, thanks to Katrina.

That ill wind blew some (barely) offshore casinos onto the shors of the Gulf Coast. As part of the plan to "rebuild," as the saying goes, the damaged coast, such bonds are going to be issued. But not promiscuously. Some legislators do not want tax-subsidized bonds to finance the rebuilding of casinos.

Not that the casinos need help: They are rebounding briskly, even expanding. Still, government has a sorry record of dispensing billions in corporate welfare for flourishing businesses.

It is mysterious why states or localities that want casinos operating nearby - and providing jobs and tax revenues - also want them afloat, a few feet from a riverbank or ocean shore. (Mississippi has just decided to let them come ashore.)

Does that narrow band of water provide prophylactic protection against sin? The communities already have weighed the sin against the jobs and revenues and found the sin congenial.

But such awkward questions arise when government begins moralizing, especially about the minutiae of life, such as hot tobs. Which brings us to Reagan's 1981 statement about inappropriate uses of the tax code.

He disliked government using the code to conduct industrial policy, picking commercial winners and losers, which is a recipe for what is called "lemon socialism" - tax subsidies for failing businesses that the market says should fail.

Regarding the second part of Reagan's statement, any tax code is going to shape society. But he opposed manipulating the tax code to stigmatize this or that consumer preference. Which is what the code's anti-hot tub provision does.

One wonders: Why did the social improvers who used the code to put the government, in its majesty, on record against hot tubs and tanning facilities not extend their list of disapproved choices. Their list looks morally lax.

Really stern social conservatives probably favor explicitly proscribing government assistance to lots of things, most of them somehow involving sex.

Government could preen about being too moral to subsidize, with tax-preferred bonds, economic projects that include bookstores that sell Judy Blume novels, or hotels that offer in-room pornography. And wouldn't it be fun to find the words "lap dance" in the nation's tax code?

As strongly as social conservatives deplore commercialized sex, liberals deplore cigarettes, Big Macs, firearms, fur coats, SUVs, pornography not printed on recycled paper, pornographic movies produced by nonunion studios, holiday trees provocatively labeled "Christmas trees" and much more.

But do we really want to march down this road paved with moral pronouncements?

When government uses subsidies to moralize, as with tax preferences for bonds that can be used to finance this but not that, government is speaking. It is expressing opinions about what is and is not wholesome. And once government starts venting such opinions, how does it stop?

Government could spare itself the stress of moralizing about so many things if it decided that the choices people make with their money is their, not its, business. And government could avoid having opinions about so many things if it would quit subsidizing so many things.


I admit this is the sort of conservatism I subscribe to. I strongly object to using civil powers (through the coercion of criminal laws, the incentives of tax breaks, or however) to attempt to get other people to follow my preferences. Granted, I may deplore what others choose to do, and I might wish they would stop. I might even consider those whose preferences differ from mine to be suffering from a serious case of either malice or ignorance.

But I'm aware that many of those people feel the same way about what I do, and I resent their efforts to influence my preferences "for my own good."

I'd also like to emphasize something Will only mentioned in passing. The tax code is guaranteed to "regulate the economy or bring about social change." No tax policy can be neutral - taxing anything changes the market's demand for it. Will is instead recommending that tax rates be low, and taxes be broadly based, and without specified exceptions. Taxes should also somehow resist constant tinkering.

Date: 2006/01/09 03:40:28, Link
Author: Flint
JimB:

Sorry for the long delay. My video controller took a dump. I'll cheat and use my work computer here...

I think you're right about supply and demand. These forces become especially problematical (and painful) when it comes to health care.

Personally, I'd start by noting the sheer cost of health care, not in dollars so much as in the requirements of providing it effectively. Perhaps the important factors are:
1) Good physicians require enormous amounts of education, experience, and other training. And it may well be the case that only a small minority of people are capable of becoming highly qualified despite any amount of training.
2) Serious health problems are a lock. Everyone dies. Studies show that at least half the average person's medical costs occur in the last few months of their life.
3) For better or worse, the public is unforgiving about any perceived errors made by any health care providers. Malpractice awards are stratospheric.
4) State of the art medical care (drugs, equipment, etc.) calls for materials that are prohibitively costly to produce, but for which the demand is generally too low for truly high-volume production.
5) The state of the art is in rapid flux; yesterday's drugs and machinery are obsolete today. And maybe didn't work very well anyway. And maybe today's aren't that effective either.
6) But the same demand for perfection and penalties for malfunctions increases the cost of producing these things by orders of magnitude. Legal dispensation requires climbing an Everest of red tape, which requires lots of expensive people working for years.

Now, add all these things together, and it quickly becomes apparent that the social cost of providing state of the art medical treatment to everyone who needs it, is going to bankrupt even the richest State. Half the citizens would be health care providers, caring for the other half, paid for in goods and services nobody would be left to produce.

(There's an interesting parallel with law enforcement. If we wish public safety at the same level we want national healthcare levels, half of the population would be cops watching the other half, and half our buildings would be prisons.)

In other words, there is going to be a point of diminishing returns, some point where a nation is providing all the medical care it can afford to provide *as an economy.* And inevitably, that point is going to be reached WELL before there's enough care to go around. The questions the become:
a) Are we as a nation providing as much *total* care as we can - i.e. is the market properly balancing healthcare demands with all other demands?
b) How is the available care being distributed? In other words, what distortions is the State introducing to the market for moral and/or political purposes?

In different ways, the US and Canada both subsidize health care. The economic result is that there is MORE of it than a hypothetical free market would provide. Since there STILL isn't anywhere near enough to go around, the US and Canada have made different allocation decisions. The US has elected a system that provides care on a timely basis. Since there plain isn't enough to provide to *everyone* on this basis, the US sorts the recipients by ability to pay. The poor (except for low-quality emergency care) lose out.

Canada has chosen to provide care on a "treat everyone equally" basis. The shortage of care under the Canadian system means that *everyone* waits a long time. In serious cases, the delay proves fatal. In other words, Canada sorts the recipients by *severity of problem*, an effective triage approach where those with the worst problems, rather than the poor, lose out.

But the point is, *someone* must lose out. Competent health care is always going to be scarce and expensive; that's the nature of the beast. No matter HOW we decide to distribute it, some receive (adequate) care and most do not.

So at this point, I'd like to ask how an "unbroken" system is going to distribute a resource that everyone needs, but only a few can receive enough of. In your ideal world, who gets it and who doesn't?

Date: 2006/01/09 04:19:42, Link
Author: Flint
Dean,

Quote
Flint.. seems like you have made a very good case for spending taxpayers money on preventative medicine: as the cost-benefit ratio is so favourable - and not leaving it to the 'free' market as you originally advocated.


Bear with me, but I have several problems with this statement, and I'd like to address them one at a time.

1) I did not advocate leaving anything to the 'free' market - I have been very very careful NOT to advocate any such thing on this thread. I have tried to point out that the market is in the business of making allocation decisions, and that different market distortions (economic policies) influence these allocations. I haven't recommended any particular allocation.

2) I did not make a case for spending taxpayer money on medical care. Making such a case would *necessarily* require that I specificy and justify what I would want LESS of, in order to get MORE medical care. Remember, recommending goodies for everyone is what politicians do. Economists must recognize that there are only so many goodies available, not nearly enough to go around, and that if we increase medical goodies, we must *decrease* something else. Politicians never say what we should have LESS of.

But a cost/benefit ratio cannot even be approximated without consideration of the costs. You may have interpreted (though I didn't say explicitly) that allocating more resources toward health care is a benefit. In fact, I think it could be regarded as a benefit, but no benefit comes without a cost.

And therefore, the ONLY reason you see "winners all around" is because you've carefully ignored the losers. But there HAVE to be losers. Money taken away from you by government to pay for someone else's health care, is money YOU don't have to spend on what YOU want. You might not consider this a loss, but most people will. You might consider it a loss worth taking, but it's still a loss.

Date: 2006/01/09 08:02:45, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

Quote
You are saying that there are trade offs with walmart's model and that the consumers who pay a lower price are recieving one end of that tradeoff and the communities that subsidize walmart through healthcare food stamps rent subsidies and the like (not to mention the employees themselves) are on the other end of that tradeoff. Is this an accurate analysis?

Close enough.

Quote
Then you are saying that the benefit/cost balances and it is up to us to change policy if we so choose, right?

Yes.

Quote
My point would be in the walmart example that the cost is born unequally by the community over the benefits of the lower prices.

Economic policies, as a rule, shift costs and benefits around. We discussed the progressive income tax a few pages back. The entire purpose of this strategy is to place the costs entirely on those who get no direct benefits, and benefit those who pay none of the costs. We do this because as a nation, we have made the political decision that government costs and benefits should be borne unequally.

Quote
the simple act of conducting business by walmart is detrimental to many communities and therefore the tradeoff is not equal.

I'm not sure I understand this. Benefits match costs, but are not borne by the same populations. A member of a community might consider the "WalMart effect" to be either beneficial or detrimental, depending. I don't think you'll find unanimous agreement.

Quote
If you follow that line of reasoning, then you would say that the rules should be changed? No? So, How much education do I need to arrive at that conclusion?

Which conclusion? I would argue that you need a good deal of education to determine HOW to change the rules, so that you don't suffer too many unexpected consequences. I don't think you need ANY education to determine WHETHER to change the rules. That's an emotional decision.

Quote
that walmart is playing by the rules, is succeeding, and is making stockholders money so it is in fact a good thing?

Any time you speak about a "good thing", you need to qualify this by specifying whom it's good for, and in what way. It's an exceedingly rare case where anything anyone considers a good thing (for him), someone else considers a bad thing (for him). IF WalMart's goal were to pay huge dividends to its stockholders (but it's not), then WalMart's tactics would be a "good thing" for the stockholders, in their opinion. But instead, WalMart keeps their costs to a minimum to keep their prices to a minimum, and their profit margin is industry average. This is a Good Thing in the opinion of those who shop there, while they are shopping. But many of the same people who shop there to get low prices, simultaneously lament the effects WalMart has on the rest of the community, which they consider a Bad Thing. NOT bad enough to shop elsewhere, of course...

Date: 2006/01/09 08:22:54, Link
Author: Flint
Dean:

Quote
Expenditure by society now on inexpensive preventative medicine is a worthwhile expenditure as it reduces future costs.

"Worthwhile" is a value judgment. I agree that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If I'm selling prevention, this is my sales pitch. If I'm selling cure, I place my emphasis somewhat differently...

Quote
The market is one way of allocating resources; but not the only one

This claim needs a bit more depth. I think you could argue that most policies are designed to modify supply and demand, so as to make the market serve new motivations. Some resources are indeed allocated outside any market mechanism.

Quote
it is no more able to excercise foresight than 'Natural Selection'

"The market" in this sense shouldn't be anthropomorphized. The market is an emergent result of zillions of discrete individuals making autonomous economic transations. To a very real extent, people make these transactions in anticipation of future trends and/or events. It would be quite accurate to say that "the market" is exercising foresight to the degree that the individual actors are doing so.

Quote
it is not neccesarily the most efficient one (Note that this is the use of the word 'efficient' in the sense that economists apply it to markets, and to which I alluded earlier).

That sense of efficiency had to do with how much information the market had about its transations, how transparently that information was available to all participants. And in this sense, the market is as efficient as available information (both quantity and quality) permit. Inefficiencies are introduced through secrecy, misinformation, and the sheer perverse refusal of the future to make itself known until it's too late to take advantage of it.

Quote
Preventative medicine applied to communicable diseases should make the point even clearer to you. Market economics would never have been able to eradicate Smallpox.

I don't know. I can tell you that my community offers vaccinations - through my doctor, my employer, or whatever. For a fee, I can purchase preventive medicine. Legally coercing people to be vaccinated isn't a market mechanism, though, I agree...

Quote
We are all benefitting economically (and medically) for not having this disease lingering on in the poor of the world. 'Goodies for everyone' as you say.

Yep, there are bargains out there to be had. We might regard disease, like pollution, as an economic externality. Communities band together to cooperate for the common good, which in practice means forcing someone to do or refrain from doing something in the interests of everyone else, whether they want to or not. We experience a constant community debate as to whether any action's benefits exceed the costs by enough to justify imposing the costs on (some) members of the community, who rarely wish to pay it.

Date: 2006/01/09 09:38:40, Link
Author: Flint
Dean,

I think we're mostly communicating, but in some cases just missing. Probably my fault...

Quote
If you want to sell a new preventative medical treatment to society - then it needs to have the funds to pay you. through taxation.

Why necessarily through taxation? If I invented a preventive treatment that was guaranteed effective, and I sold it for an affordable price, would you buy it?

Quote
To the degree that the motivations and foresight of individual actors in a market might not allocate resources in an optimal way; even for an individual actor; then markets may be 'inefficient' (I'm not saying most are - just that this can happen). At which point it is legitimate for a government to step in and allocate some of societies resources to an issue for the common good.

Not everyone would agree with you here. Yes, lack of information and various structural rigidities make the market less efficient. But government action introduces LOTS of inefficiency no matter WHAT it does. So efficiency really isn't the issue at all here. What's at issue is (a) whether something is beneficial enough for the "common good" to justify coercion by the State; and (b) how we determine where that point lies. But this is the content of politics and political science since before recorded history. Just what is the "optimal" way for a community to make decisions that affect that community, so that we approximate some "ideal" midpoint between the community inferfering too much with the life of the individual, and the individual interfering too much with the well-being of the community.

Quote
There is a concept in epidemiology of 'herd immunity' - think of it as being worth your while to immunise someone else so they don't infect you.

I'm well aware of it. It's a good argument for involuntary vaccination.

Quote
A 'Laissez-faire' or 'free market' position is one that says we should minimise spending on community goods and services, and minimize the contribution of the wealthy.

Really? Do you have a link? My notion of "laissez faire" is that the market should not be regulated. "Laissez faire" means "let do", and implies that anything goes. It does NOT necessarily imply that there is no government or no taxation, nor does it specify anything in particular about the poor or the wealthy. It just says that the government won't act as the mediator in contract enforcement.

Quote
It is not an inevitible conclusion drawn from the study of economics; it is a particular (and 'value-laden';) viewpoint.

Absolutely. I am most emphatically NOT a proponent of "laissez faire" economics. However, I'd like to point out that truly elementary microeconomic analysis presumes such a system, much as elementary physics presumes no friction or boundary effects. These are simplifying assumptions to clarify certain principles; they aren't reality.

Quote
Which is why I objected to you introducing it into  Tara's thread about the intelligence of her friends and their acceptance of evolution.

I don't understand this accusation. What I objected to was an economic analysis that carefully assumed away and ignored ALL of the benefits, to misrepresent a situation as a "pure" cost. This kind of "analysis" is either profoundly dishonest, or profoundly ignorant. So I tried to point out that for every benefit there are costs (to someone), and for every cost, there are beneficiaries. Economics consists of identifying both the costs and benefits, and the economic actors experiencing them.

In the process, I seem to have encountered some poorly-thought-out but nonetheless (and perhaps *therefore*) intensely-held political positions. To the point where even *mentioning* that there are benefits purchased with costs, sets some people off like fireworks. Someone on this thread actually said (and quite evidently believes) that anyone who shops at WalMart does so out of pure abject ignorance and for no other reason!

Date: 2006/01/09 10:27:31, Link
Author: Flint
Alan Fox:

Quote
If you knew that alcohol and tobacco shortened many people's lives would you ban them, knowing the loss of income from reduced taxation, which might otherwise contribute to additional healthcare.

Well, as I recall, the US tried to ban alcohol. The effects of that effort were regarded as profoundly negative on society, MUCH worse than the alcohol ever was, and indeed a good argument can be constructed that those effects are still with us. Prohibition lasted 12 years, easily long enough for crime to get organized and STAY organized.

However, you are correct that while we wouldn't eliminate smoking or drinking, we WOULD eliminate the excise taxes imposed on these activities. The savings that consumers enjoyed in lowered taxes, by experience, were more than offset by lowered product quality. Of course, it's an ill wind that blows nobody good: organized crime made a fortune. This was the single most profound economic effect of prohibition - and also an effect *completely unanticipated* by those who thought they were doing everyone a favor.

After all, the demand never diminished. The attempt was made to cut off the supply. This invariably causes prices (and profit margins) to skyrocket. When profits are astronomical and not obtainable legally, then they are obtained illegally. Always. Our current "war on drugs" makes drug dealers so wealthy they don't know how or where to store all the money. These dealers also contribute heavily to anti-drug politicians; they know the score even if do-gooders don't get it.

If you're asking for my personal values, I would require that everything known about the health effects of smoking and drinking be prominently displayed so anyone curious about them couldn't possibly miss them. Then I'd let people make whatever informed decision they saw fit.

Quote
I agree with Dean,  preventative healthcare, especially dietary advice and education within the public school system, could have huge benefits to the US economy.

In general, what you're talking about is information. I think most people will take preventive steps if they're aware of them, and if those steps aren't too inconvenient. And I also agree that preventive health care however achieved would increase per capita productivity significantly.

But once again, the question isn't whether such care would increase productivity, reduce sick time, etc. The question is whether others *ought* to have the authority to impose "wise" health choices on you. And that is not an economic issue at all. That goes back to the philosophical tradeoff between obligation and liberty. We all owe the community something for the value the community provides. But HOW MUCH do we owe, and how do we DECIDE how much we owe?

Date: 2006/01/09 11:41:05, Link
Author: Flint
Alan Fox:

Quote
Then why not cocaine, or heroin. (BTW if anyone gets offered morphine as a painkiller after, say, an operation, my advice is say "yes please"). Tax income, no policing of drug crime, pure product with controllable doses...

In other words, legal with reasonable regulation (to regulate perhaps age of purchase, quality of ingredients, etc.) Yeah, you'd get my vote.

JimB:

Quote
My personal perception of theft, is that it is the economic equivalent of biological parasitism.  The host is perfectly capable of surviving without parasites/theft.  Furthermore, it damages the host and only benefits the parasite/criminal.  If the host is too overburdened by parasitism/theft, then it dies/collapses - taking the parasites with it.

Exactly so. This is called the "free rider" effect. Where everyone is honest, nobody needs a lock. A single, or a very few, thieves have it made. But as theft becomes more commonplace, people start taking steps to make it harder to do - make it more expensive. Same with WalMart and the local community - WalMart's health requires a healthy community, where customers come from. So WalMart can't afford to damage its host too much without damaging itself.

BWE:

Where everyone tries to get more than everyone else out of a community resource, the entire community loses. Many ecologists are convinced that by breeding like bacteria, we have already exceeded the steady-state carrying capacity of the planet. The known result of overbreeding your resource base is a population implosion. What people have been "smart" enough to do is exploit the entire planet, and switch to new resources as prior ones are depleted.

This strategy has two effects: it allows us to spend longer building up to a higher total population, and it guarantees a maximally vicious implosion when the time comes (because the resources we've spent took 10^8 years to accumulate, and will take that long to recover). We have treated the entire planet as "the commons" and we've been engaged for a couple of hundred years in desperate haste to consume all we can of it before anyone else gets there first.

Some days, I feel truly sorry for our grandchildren.

Date: 2006/01/09 14:16:38, Link
Author: Flint
I gotta agree. The sheer unbridled success of the scientific method generally (do what works, figure out why it works so you can do other things that work) is doing too good a job of promoting itself. Among people generally, who attend school and know that the really really smart people go into science and NONE of these people go into the clergy, and who enjoy a standard of living that doesn't seem to have anything to do with prayer, it's clear how to bet.

People LIKE being comfortable in this world, science has found a whole lot about this world that makes us even more comfortable, and has found no sign of any afterlife. Science does all this by simply ignoring the supernatural as though it doesn't even exist. The sheer numbing irrelevancy of institutionalized superstitions gradually soaks in on people because they're simply ignored. Nobody spends much time sitting around denying the gods; why bother?

Even worse, the evil materialistic worldview makes a better life available directly; there's no magic rituals, no priesthood. Ecclesiastical stuff has no pride of place; it's just as available on the buffet of life options as anything else, competing on even terms and ultimately offering very little. Gradually people understand that they DO have a choice, they CAN sample what's offered, and compare. I really don't think the religious folk like a fair game, where you can only win on your merits. They fall distinctly short in the merit department...

Date: 2006/01/09 16:45:56, Link
Author: Flint
stevestory:

Quote
As to Flint's point that Materialism is wildly successful, you couldn't be more wrong. There are 5 theists in America for every atheist/agnostic. That's not overwhelming success.

While we will probably have to agree to disagree on this one, I stand by the point I tried to make. Over the decades (am I really getting old? Dang!;) I've noticed a polarization in intensity of theistic belief? worldview? degree that supernaturalism informs one's take on life? Whatever I call it, my sense is that while most Americans profess faith in God, most profess it on Sunday and spend their day-to-day lives without their faith really even crossing their minds. Conversely, their material concerns (with income, taxation, technology, convenience, retirement, relationships, etc.) are the stuff that occupies their brains full time.

And there's probably a minority who have reacted against this relentless secularization rather violently, by becoming fanatical in their belief, babbling about gods and magic books all day and fighting to deploy civil force against the unbeliever.

And so, more and more, I see hostility between those who are Sunday morning Christians, and those who consider themselves True Christians and the other variety fakers.

I'd argue that our culture basically forces this kind of polarization. When I was young, I think only a tiny minority of today's movies would have been makeable, or even cross the minds of the moviemakers. The scandalous books of the day would be completely innocuous by today's standards.

But it's much deeper than this. A book written about Jack London's attempt to sail single-handed around the world written when I was born had nearly nothing to say about London's background, or his route, his supplies, his boat, etc. Instead, the book focused entirely on whether London's motivation for doing so was Righteous (to prove himself worthy in God's eyes) or Sinful (to cash in on the publicity). Today, nobody would even think to raise the issue, which wouldn't be relevant anyway.

And this "Jack Londonism" (to coin a phrase) used to permeate the views of every commentator on everything. So over the decades I see a sea change from a default view where God informed our lives, to a default where we are (except for the fanatics) no longer offended all that much by the books we read, the websites we visit, the movies we watch (we certainly watch!;), and we are only reminded about, oh yeah, it's Sunday, sure, we believe in God, why ask? Who are the Giants playing today?

Yeah, there are 5 theists for every anti-theist or atheist, but theism ain't what it used to be. The march of technology has sucked the intensity out of most of it, and I see the creationism as a last-gasp, rearguard attempt to recapture a time that will never come again. YMMV.

Date: 2006/01/10 03:56:07, Link
Author: Flint
As far as I can tell, the best way to promote secular values isn't through preaching them explicitly, but by having them gradually pervade the culture, as has been happening. More and more, people want both convenience and justice NOW, not in the afterlife.

Maybe we need to clarify what "secular values" really are. To me, they imply living in comfort, having access to real knowledge (and recognizing the utility of knowledge), seeking rewards and fulfillment while I live. But maybe there's a lot more to it that I haven't run into any need to study? I regard the Golden Rule as a good solid secular rule of thumb.

Date: 2006/01/10 09:29:42, Link
Author: Flint
As celtic_elk's link makes pretty clear, the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment the NRA defends doesn't very closely line up with the interpretation the ACLU sets forth.

Without taking any particular position on this myself, it seems clear that the NRA very carefully pretends the first half of that amendment doesn't exist, while the ACLU has decided the second half is the one that doesn't really mean anything.

And so the NRA thinks the amendment says that everyone is guaranteed an unlimited right to bear whatever arms they see fit, from poison gas to suitcase nukes. The ACLU thinks the amendment is a now long-obsolete relic of the original 13 states' reluctance to disarm themselves *as States*, because they feared excessive Federal authority.

The issue has clearly raised national emotions beyond any reconciliation in the form of a single Supreme Court interpretation, so the issue is very carefully sidestepped and probably always will be. It's probably also the case that neither side in this issue really dares pursue it to any definitive decision, for fear of what that decision might be. Instead, the courts are content to let "reasonable regulation" take its course, and the ACLU is unwilling to rock the boat of benign neglect.

Date: 2006/01/10 11:15:28, Link
Author: Flint
Mr_Christopher:

Did you read the ACLU material at the link? They make what I consider a fairly good point - that the NRA (whatever they may believe; I don't know if I exaggerated their beliefs or not) in practice concedes that some level of arms regulation is reasonable. The ACLU then claims that this being the case, the debate only revolves around what degree of regulation we as a people consider reasonable. I got the distinct impression that the ACLU believes that if we as a people decide that "reasonable regulation" means outlawing all private ownership *except* when a State has called up and armed an active militia, the 2nd Amendment is still not violated.

To me, this degree of flexibility renders the 2nd Amendment pretty meaningless.

Yes, we're aware that in the 18th century, living in sometimes hostile conditions and with hunting for food a common necessity (as well as defense against animals, etc.) gun ownership was as much a necessity (and thus taken for granted) as vehicle ownership is today. I'm not personally convinced that 18th century SOP should in all circumstances be regarded as today's ideal model.

I'm not persuaded myself that an armed citizenry presents any serious obstacle to a national military force, so I agree with the ACLU in that. I'm personally not opposed to "reasonable regulation" so long as all serious voices get a say in what's reasonable. To me, personal arms are for hunting, collecting, recreation, and self-defense. My own collection of about a dozen guns fall into all but the hunting category; my wife competes in shooting contests, we both carry everywhere we can. If our own activities became too difficult, we'd probably join the forces of the gun-nuts ourselves.

But I see the outcome of the suit you spoke of (I hadn't heard anything about that) as reasonable. They had no good cause to confiscate guns, and the court agreed. Presumably, next time it won't happen. This is the kind of "reasonable regulation taking its course" I spoke about. Sounds reasonable to me.

Date: 2006/01/10 11:51:26, Link
Author: Flint
I also support the ACLU. I was in a discussion on some board not too long ago, where (as usual) the fundies were excoriating the ACLU as the tool of the fags, commies, and baby killers. I provided a sizeable list of cases where the ACLU was explicitly defending the rights of Christians to BE Christians. My argument was that Christians had just as many civil liberties as any other citizen, and those liberties deserved to be defended as much as anyone else's. I gave links.

The response was informative. Clearly, I must be lying. Since I was defending the ACLU, I couldn't be trusted. Since I provided links, the links couldn't be trusted. But others pointed out that I couldn't possibly have fabricated all those sites; these cases were mentioned all over the place.

I think the net conclusion was that those in the ACLU were so abysmally stupid that they defended Christians simply because they didn't have the brains to know what they were doing!

Date: 2006/01/10 16:36:36, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

Quote
It doesn't take a genius to realize that *margin* is not profit. Margin times volume = profit. Walmart, like all good profit making enterprises seeks to maximize total profit. They do this by trying to find the peak in the total profit curve.

Sigh. Yes, I understand.

Quote
Evidently, they believe this peak lies at lower prices than they have yet been able to achieve. Bully for them, they may well be right.

So the question is, could WalMart increase total profits by raising their prices? After all, most of what they sell is commodity items, and commodity items tend to sell on price alone. Which means you don't need to undercut your competition by more than a little bit to get all the sales.

My perception is that WalMart has a more complex goal structure than simply maximizing profits. They're aware that this goal, all by itself, is highly impermanent. If we layer on ancillary goals like maintaining acceptable (but not highest possible) profit levels for as long as possible, strategies change.

Quote
But at least he wasn't stupid like you and thought the way to achieve massive wealth was by maximizing his profit margin.

You seem to be falling into the Sir Toejam mire of assuming anyone with whom you disagree is stupid (or would you allow ignorant in addition?) I thought on one of my posts earlier, I spoke of spending all of economics 101 creating and solving the total profit curve, to find the ideal price such that either lowering OR raising the price reduced total profits. Do you sincerely feel I don't follow this?

I think we agree that WalMart's total strategy is intended to both solidify and increase their market position, not to take the money and run.

Quote
Seriously, if you are wondering why the energy and chemical moguls are lobbying hard for trading pollution credits...

Let me guess. It's because they are EVIL BASTARDS out to line their pockets by abusing their power at the expense of us poor schmucks who couldn't vote in an honest Congress because the Big Guys have all the politicians in their pockets, and are manipulating government regulation so that it protects them and their profits at our expense. Am I getting warm?

Quote
Really Flint, for a guy that argues that the rest of us are economic dolts, you're looking pretty pathetic...You have no idea how the game is played.

Golly, I hope you feel better now. I understand SO MUCH MORE than I did before your fine little performance. You may pat yourself on the back and go enlighten some other pathetic ignoramus now. I won't mind. If you want to play some more after you grow up, that's fine too. You clearly have nothing to learn from anyone.

BWE:

Quote
And that is why we don't need a degree in economics to make judgements in economic arenas

But nobody said we did. What you would learn in economics is how to do things like set product price and quality so as to maximize profits. And to analyze costs and benefits so that you are not taken by surprise.

Quote
in the end our economic activity boils down to moral choices.

Yes, but the moral choices made by a very large number of actors can be generalized enough to make fairly accurate predictions in some areas.

We are still not communicating. Consider: The odds of rolling snakeyes can be calculated, regardless of whether gambling is considered moral. There is a qualitative difference between the optimal strategy for playing the game, and whether the game itself *ought* to be played. You seem to be trying to make the case that the best way to understand economics is to attend church so as to avoid sinful differential calculus.

Quote
Walmart is an absolutely beautiful illustration of that fact for the reasons listed above.

But again, we are talking about different things. Even assuming that WalMart follows haceaton's implicit dictum that the more cynical he is, the more accurate he is likely to be about how the world works, and that assuming "the enemy" (everyone else) is as dishonest as they can get away with, supply and demand still operate. Haceaton apparently believes that Adam Smith missed the boat entirely, and that Al Capone was the real economist. But that doesn't make it true at all. Economics is a world of costs and benefits, where more of something means less of something else. An economy is where zillions of individual transactions determine relative values of everything. WHY those transactions are made really don't matter that much. If you wish to believe that people buy brand X canned peas for moral reasons, fine. Economists will note with amusement that the most moral peas ALSO tend to have the lowest price, all else being equal.

As these discussions continue, it becomes clear that WalMart, probably by their very success, has triggered deep-seated political instincts. You and haceaton seem so fanatically convinced that WalMart is evil that any effort to understand their business model that does NOT continuously rave and drool against the Unclean is regarded as either hopelessly uninformed (by haceaton), or outright immoral( by you).

But WalMart is nonetheless an economic actor, and their policies do in fact have economic effects beneficial to some and harmful to others. I think it's kind of sad that fanatacism has made this simple observation so difficult for you two to understand or accept.

To you, all I can say is bless you, brother. May you live in righteousness. To haceaton, I can say I'm glad I don't live in the world of his imagination, where he tries to puff up his withered soul by living among terrible enemies of whom he assumes the worst.

Date: 2006/01/10 16:51:23, Link
Author: Flint
JimB:

Quote
So how much of our individual rights do we owe our society?  Society definitely provides us with benefits so I assume that we should owe it some.  The question is where should that divide be drawn?


My approach is to say that humans are a gregarious species, and that things like rights emerge from social interactions generally. We know that we benefit from cooperation. We can do things together we can't do individually, and we can organize an effective division of labor. The benefits of these things are very substantial.

But to implement them, we must make concessions to one another; we must agree to restrict our behavior in ways congenial to those with whom we cooperate, and expect them to do the same. So "rights" are what we as a group allow all of us as members of that group to do without causing undue grief to the group itself. And that's the cost we pay to get the benefits of social living.

As for where we draw the line, this line is in constant motion, in thousands of ways, all the time, depending on a never-ending process of negotiation. There are no absolute rules, only general principles that emerge over time from what has been discovered to work well enough.

Quote
It's not surprising that fundamentalists feel that all rights should be abandoned in favor of society.

I don't think this is how they feel, but I may be wrong. By observation, fundamentalists don't wish to relinquish any of *their* rights, they only want you to give up yours. They have mastered the double standard, which they've done by ginning up some gods to whom they alone speak privately and directly, who advises them that their urges and preferences are Officially Approved. When have you ever heard of a Christian being told by God that he's wrong?

Date: 2006/01/11 03:44:59, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

Quote
Certainly you must have in EC101. Why you dropped the ball in order to criticize my position that the Walmart owners are out to maximize their wealth, I don't know, so I appologize for calling you stupid. But the argument you made relied on this error so you should either make a good argument or concede that Walmart is run to make the most money.

Multiple comments seem called for here.

First, it can reasonably be said that ALL for-profit businesses are out to maximize their wealth as a primary goal. I don't know why you would consider this a bad thing per se. According to even the most basic notions of the market, for-profit businesses are presumed to be attempting to increase their wealth. As Robert Townsend wrote in Up The Organization, if you're not in business for fun or profit, what are you doing here?

Second, I can't see why you refuse to accept that businesses (including WalMart) can have no other motivations. As you point out, they pay fairly low dividends, although they could pay much more. So the owners aren't taking advantage of dividends to maximize their wealth. How about the price of the stock? Well, no, WalMart stock is selling for 10% less than it did 5 years ago. They are *losing* money on the stock price.

Now, I suppose you might argue that WalMart's owners are stupid. They could easily extract a great deal more personal wealth out of their company, at least in the short run. Yet they do not. Perhaps their goal is to maximize their wealth over a much longer timespan? But doing this will entail reaching some kind of equilibrium with the communities where they operate...

(Incidentally, I've seen economic analyses indicating that WalMart's low-price policies have had a measurable effect on national inflation rates. A positive thing for most of us, even if it is ALSO positive for the major shareholders.)

Quote
Maybe, but I would say that they (Walmart management) doesn't think so. Since you disagree, what do you think is their motivation for low prices that makes them break the law, act unethically, etc.?

With a business as large as WalMart, I'd take this on a case-by-case basis. My reading (YMMV certainly) is that most of the cases aren't WalMart corporate policy, and most have been zealousness on the part of individual store managers. But it also seems that corporate headquarters hasn't been aggressive in stopping some of the improper practices. And so I have been arguing from the start that regulation is a necessity. Certainly the motivation to make money is uppermost, and store managers are evaluated on that basis. In a larger sense, business success is evaluated on that basis, and the failures go broke and vanish. The motivation to bend or break rules and cut corners is strong. (Would you fall over backwards in astonishment if news were to come out that Toyota has been cooking the books?)

Quote
As for evil, no I don't think Walmart or the people that run it are evil. Greedy, yes. Unethical, yes. But this sort of greed and ethical lapses is very common in the business world - it is far from unique to Walmart.

I regard it as inherent in any capitalist system, considered generally as any system where the more money one makes, the more one gets to keep. These aren't "lapses" so much as they are a continuous battle between those who make and enforce the rules, and those who seek ways to circumvent the rules. A story is told of a robber baron who called in his lawyer and said "Find me a legal way to do this." And the lawyer replied "But sir, you can't do that, it's illegal." And the robber baron replied, "That's not what I asked."

Quote
As you point out Walmart is vilified because of its success, not because it is peculiarly unethical. Heck, it probably even started out as a totally ethical, honest enterprise.

Perhaps where we differ here is, I regard it as being as honest and ethical as (say) General Motors, or Sears or any other large business. And a LOT better than the Enrons of the world. I sincerely believe WalMart (and others) top management wishes to make a good-faith effort to keep integrity levels at or just above minimally acceptable. I don't think Sears achieved market dominance through underhanded management, nor lost it by becoming honest.

If you revisit your list of "how the real world works", you'll notice that nowhere do you even mention customers or competitors.

Quote
I make it a point to try to "do the right thing" in politics anyway. I do believe we have a seriously broken system...

Well, I'm not trying to dispute your political preferences. I just don't believe there ever has been a "golden age" when politicians or businesses were more honest, and in fact my reading of American history is that there have been periods of truly boggling corruption. If you'd been alive 100 years ago and known what was going on, you'd have had apoplexy. Of course, the tycoons ran the media, so you wouldn't have known.

Quote
I respect most of what you've said in on-topic (i.e. TOE) posts on PT

Do you post on PT also?

Quote
It surprised me that you said this because nearly all of economic theory seems to be based on the idea that unbounded growth is a necessity.

We seem to approach this from different angles. Economic theory as I understand it provides tools for analysis of a shrinking, steady, or growing market. Growth isn't a necessity, but it has implications different from the other conditions. I'll observe that fertility is inversely proportional to living standard; if ALL nations could consume at the rate the US is consuming, perhaps the birth rate would go down more voluntarily?

Quote
Hey that's pretty close!

Imagine my surprise.

Quote
Why do they want rules for pollution credit trading? Indeed it is to protect their profits. If they absolutely can't pollute then their costs will rise, their margins will shrink, and their market will shrink too.

Um. No such thing as "absolutely can't pollute". There are only relative costs. Politicians aren't about to shut down the major employer in a community. The problem is wider: If running a non-polluting operation is prohibitively expensive (which it is for some sorts of manufacturing), then the level of polluting one can get away with influences the price of the product, which influences market share. Often, the competition is in China, where pollution levels are ghastly, and the Yellow River runs with sludge the half the year when it runs at all. Combine this with Chinese peasants working for peanuts, and its very hard for American businesses to compete. Competitive failure costs lots of American jobs and industries, and politicians are sensitive to this. Some balance needs to be struck between allowing pollution, and losing the businesses (which causes the people to elect the opponent!;).

Quote
The good news is that there are some ethical people running some corporations (Toyota comes to mind) that instead want to invest in finding ways to reduce pollution even though it reduces their profits.

But other tradeoffs must always be made. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but you seem to be implying that the decision to pollute/break laws/act unethically implies a character trait without economic ramifications. But I doubt people buy Toyotas because corporate headquarters is populated by good citizens. Instead, they buy Toyotas because they are competitively priced in relation to their level of quality.

Now, I agree that the example set by Toyota and others shows that it CAN be done. But of course, Toyota is out to maximize their profits as well, and Toyota lobbies powerfully at local, state and national levels. And Toyota employees are paid less in both upfront wages and indirect benefits than GM employees. And Toyota's primary owners are very rich. And Toyota aggressively seeks favorable tax treatment. In my district, a new Toyota plant just opened that was enticed to locate here in exchange for *bonuses instead of taxes*.

(Incidentally, diluting stock as you described is a very serious SEC no-no. Recently the accounting rules were changed (admittedly over stuck-pig protests) to consider options differently, as actual stock. Keeping two sets of books, one for the SEC and one for the public, lands you in jail very #### quickly. Many other items on your list are "heads I win, tails you lose" things - if they pay high dividends, they are ripping us off. If they don't pay any dividends, they're ripping us off. If they pay enormous salaries to their top brass, they're ripping us off. If they don't they're ripping us off.

As for keeping wages in line with skills, this is problematic. Most WalMart jobs are unskilled or semi-skilled; nearly any retard can do them. This is in the nature of retailing. But WalMart must STILL compete for such people with other employers; they get no "first dibs" on anyone.)

Date: 2006/01/11 06:20:50, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

Quote
I thought you were saying that making polital economic decisions requires an academic understanding of economics.

I guess I need to clarify this. You don't need any understanding of economics at all to make economic policy, but you DO need this understanding to predict what your policy might lead to. Politicians know what their constituents want, and they do it. Often enough, they're well aware that the actual results will probably be, and that the results are the opposite of their stated intent.

Quote
But economists are writing reports about how economic theory shows that our research doesn't matter. We are making political decisions at the request of 4 or 5 people with large financial risks at stake.

Yeah, too true. These economists aren't hired to explain what will happen, but rather to produce plausible deniability in support of short-term profits. Yes, large amounts of money are at stake, along with different time frames and commons issues.

Quote
The list goes on and on and on and on but those people are making moral decisions based on their morality.

Maybe this is a semantic issue. I'd say these people are making monetary decisions based on their immediate self-interest.

Quote
That is why they are buying the politicians.

They aren't buying morality or immorality, they are making a transaction they regard as an investment. Contribute $X to a political campaign, get policies worth $50X in exchange. For them, a bargain.

Quote
But you don't need to know a whole lot about economics to make reasonable economic choices.

If by "reasonable economic choices" you mean purchasing decisions, this is true. If you mean setting price and quality of your product, this is not true. If you mean making economic political policy, economics can help you determine financial impact on specified actors.

Date: 2006/01/11 08:45:36, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

Good to get the discussion back where we can actually address these issues.

Quote
I'm going to take this that you have conceded the point that Walmart's strategy is to maximize its wealth and that minimizing prices is a tactic used to achieve it.

OK, fine, so long as we agree that maximizing wealth can be construed in different ways, over different periods of time, and (as you point out) tempered with other goals. Perhaps ultimately ANY economic goal can be considered "wealth" including goodwill, market share, longevity, committed and dedicated employees, etc.

Quote
If you bound the maximum by ethical consideration then there is nothing wrong with it. When ethical considerations are put aside in order to reach an unbounded (by ethics) maximum wealth, then it is a bad thing.

I'm going to continue to insist that "good" and "bad" are personal and entirely relative. What is good for someone is generally bad for someone else. If someone plays by the rules, this is all I think we can reasonably require. Like in sports, there is a difference between being a hard-nosed player (admired), and unsportsmanlike conduct (generally illegal). As I wrote, competitors will (and IMO *should*) seek every possible way to get an edge. If shabby treatment of employees is "bad", presumably some competitor can outcompete them by treating employees better and thus attracting better employees. If community relationships sour, someone more community-oriented can outcompete them. The most effective regulation I know of is regulation that ensures that competition is as transparent as possible.

Quote
Neither do I (believe there was a golden age). I never suggested such a thing.

Then you feel the system has *always* been "seriously broken"? I wonder if you could put your finger on a time and place where "the system" was NOT "broken".

Quote
I agree with this, but their honesty and ethics level is too low.

This statement is meaningless without some scale of ethics against which the measurement is made, along with some more-or-less objective point ON that scale below which is "too low". I personally would hate to have to specify either one.

Quote
Ordinary shareholders should seldom agree to this (at least with the typical vague, non-binding reasons given in the proxy card for increasing the outstanding shares) but they routinely do.

I agree. The notion that executive incentives will inspire the officers to perform better strikes me as absurd. Even where bonuses are tied to performance, there always seem to be ways of finding rewards. And no amount of money will make the executives smarter or better able to predict the future.

Quote
But no worries, the IRS is always a step behind.

Yep, that's right. I wrote earlier of "a continuous battle between those who make and enforce the rules, and those who seek ways to circumvent the rules." But my gut feeling is that this battle is healthy, and that NOT seeking an edge for "ethical reasons" isn't so healthy. The kind of "ethical behavior" I envision (maybe I'm misinterpreting?) is like for a ballplayer to deliberately strike out because his team is well ahead and the opposing pitcher's statistics need a little boost. Maybe to you this is "kindness" but to me it's a disturbing violation of the game itself. Even altruism, IMO, should be practiced in the interests of maximizing self-interest, though perhaps more long-term.

"Ethical" considerations, at least in sports, are usually a quid pro quo - I'll tank this match when you desperately need a win and I don't, in the expectation that you'll return the favor later. To me, this isn't a matter of helping out those who need a hand; it's a way to undermine the integrity of the game. I just don't think WalMart should take actions that reduce their immediate total profits, EXCEPT in the hopes that by doing so, they can increase their long-term profits. This is what I meant by an equilibrium with the community.

Quote
Personally I don't see why investors would buy the stock of companies that have a firm policy of never paying any dividend.

I think I can understand the argument that, at least during some interval, it's in their interest in the medium term to shovel profits back into growth. After all, "never" means "not right now." Even Microsoft has started to pay dividends (however minimal).

Quote
I described the motivation of management to not pay dividends not as a rip-off but as a way for the top management to maximize their personal wealth

I'm not sure I follow here. Top management can maximize their personal wealth by being granted a major bundle of stocks and then pay lots of dividends; by being granted a bundle of stock and having the market price rise a bunch, or by paying themselves huge salaries and bonuses. In the context of WalMart, I wasn't seeing the Walton family doing any of the above. But I just left a company that pays minimal wages, loses money every quarter (for years now), and pays the CEO in the millions per year. They also pay no dividends.

Quote
The rip-off comes in the form of diluting shareholder value through option compensation grants. In principle it should result in reduced stock prices. In practice it hasn't...

I think there are different flavors here. I know at the company I just left, there was a program of granting options to those above a certain pay grade. But this didn't increase the number of shares outstanding on the books. Granted, when they wanted more shares they needed a vote, and most shareholders rubber-stamped it.

Date: 2006/01/11 09:56:27, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
I think all of our arguments are based on a misconception of what the terms free market and laissez faire actually mean.

I suspect you are right. You have assumed a dichotomy: There's free, and there's not free. I have assumed a continuum, with a level of regulation varying from nearly nothing up to a tightly controlled and managed economy. So for me, a "free" market is one toward the less-regulated range of this continuum.

My notion of economics is that management is unavoidable. Even the "ideal" laissez faire notion has a form of management; it's just redirected into such things as assassinations, espionage, sabotage, and other mechanisms that work toward a sort of equilibrium. I personally believe that so long as competition is strictly enforced, the competition itself will act as a powerful regulator of market behavior. And one of the best enforcements of competition is a practice of full disclosure of nearly everything any supplier is doing. In fact, without some pretty comprehensive (and timely and accurate) information, competition is inhibited and the market suffers regardless of how stringent the regulation.

Quote
So, aside from the rest of the BS on both sides, it appears we actually agree that free market systems don't actually work.

Again, we have different definitions of "free". I still see this as a matter of degree. I'll admit I'm more a proponent of incentives than micromanagement. I'll wager that if we eliminated all of OSHA in favor of a policy that "each job-related injury will cost you a million bucks, whether it was preventable or not" we'd see a dramatic improvement in safety. Of course, we'd need to set this up so as not to provide an incentive to employees to GET injured...

Quote
There were a lot of "junk" tech companies in the 90's that simply ran off income from stock sales, with no actual product line even...If not sustainable in the long term, it can be quite profitable in the short term. but then, we start talking about issues of morality again.

Maybe we have difficulty with the term "morality" just like we viewed "free" differently. I think it's entirely legitimate to start up a company armed with a really good idea and an effective business plan, and sell ownership in the company to raise capital. I've done this myself. My experience was that those who purchased this ownership exercised it by ensuring that their investment was directed toward implementing the idea, so that future income would come from sales of product within some reasonable time frame.

So I presume you're saying that if I had set things up so the investors had no such authority, and then spent their money on high living until I ran out of investors, that would be immoral. And I suppose so; I admit I was never able to find such investors.

Date: 2006/01/11 11:51:34, Link
Author: Flint
Russell:

I agree the term is pretty hazy. Perhaps we need to start a Jeff Foxworthy-type contest: You might be a fundamentalist if:

-You think your faith should be preached in public school

-You don't trust anyone who hasn't been 'born again'

-You approach all problems by asking 'What would Jesus do?'

-You find dubya a little bit too liberal where it counts

-You're sure there's no interpretation involved in your reading of scripture

-You believe any statement supporting God can't be wrong

Fell free to keep suggesting stuff...

Date: 2006/01/11 14:13:47, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
so, the inherent instability in a pure free market system has less to do, imo, with economics per sae, than it does with the application of morals and ethics.

I think I understand what you're saying. Adam Smith's invisible hand was quite straightforward in saying that broad social benefits resulted from each individual actor being motived by pure short-term greed. I think the morality of short-term greed in the eyes of the Randroids has been morphed into a virtue, but Rand's fictional characters were painfully honest about their greed - which did NOT motivate them to lie, steal, and then vanish.

The buyer can't beware if he has no information. And I don't understand how anyone can "artificially inflate" stock values using complete, accurate and timely information. Most of that information was deliberately incorrect. But maybe some of the junk tech companies weren't set up under false pretenses, they just quickly figured out that (a) they had a ton of money; and (b) their business plan couldn't work. Now what? Wouldn't YOU be tempted to stash away a bundle, go through some motions, and give up?

Quote
past experience of societal revolutions against pure top-down wealth structures are not based on generation of maximum wealth, but rather on a perceived imbalance in the distribution of that wealth.

While I disagree in detail, I agree in general. People understand that wealth is never going to be very evenly distributed, and probably shouldn't be. I think revolutions are triggered by perceived violation of an implicit contract of mutual obligations. But regardless, these are still perceptions of "unfairness".

I always come back around to information, though. If I took a risk based on an accurate representation of the situation, and the risk didn't pan out, I don't mind. But if the representation was wrong, then I very much mind.

Date: 2006/01/11 15:43:25, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
I could come to you and say, "I have an idea on how to make money by pushing a fake business". That would be exactly representative of the situation, and there would be risk, but also accurately represented. They could even show a pretty good track record of success on significantly increasing your initial investment with this "business model".

would you bite?

Is this legal? It sounds almost like if someone came to you and said "I have devised a nearly foolproof way to rob banks, and if you'll fund the development of the necessary device, we'll split the proceeds."

I'd really need to know my exposure here. I wouldn't want to be in the line of fire if "pushing a fake business" should run afoul of any criminal laws, you know? I should think constructing elaborate fronts with the intent to deceive are, shall we say, less winked at today than they were pre-Enron when everyone was getting rich selling one another spun sugar.

Incidentally, there's a really fascinating article starting on Page 47 of the January 2006 issue of Science purporting to show that my basic economic assumptions aren't really justified, but are rather a subset of a larger (and I suppose you could call it "ethical") context. It's game theory, not necessarily easy reading, but I'm learning a lot. I recommend it.

Date: 2006/01/11 15:56:18, Link
Author: Flint
I agree with ST about Carol - her approach seems to be "The Bible says this happened. Therefore it did. Therefore it was a real, genuine, natural phenomenon. Therefore, it could be investigated by science. Therefore there's no conflict!"

But this argument crops up in creationist writing pretty steadily. When it comes to evidence, surely the Bible (being the Word of God) is *at least* as reliable as any number of independent observations by mere mortal scientists. So OK, we have evidence. So it's science.

Date: 2006/01/12 02:49:47, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
-posters who repeat the same exact argument more than 3 times in a thread, and are warned at least once.

Unless, of course, the moderator *agreed* with the argument, I take it.

I don't have any objection to creationists repeating essentially the same argument, so long as they make some reasonable effort to respond to objections, and add some substance and detail to their position.

What annoys me is that those posters who make the most cogent objections are simply ignored by the creationists, who seem to sift through the objections finding those with boilerplate creationist answers.

So if I were moderator, I'd like to tell some of these folks: OK, respond meaningfully to post #nnn, or you're outta here.

Date: 2006/01/12 04:00:04, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I really dislike the idea of affirmative action or positive discrimination.

This has been a matter of some sensitivity, of course. Originally, the Official Explanation was that there was to be no discrimination either in favor of or against anyone. The (rather ludicrous) assumption was that there were plenty of *fully qualified* minority types out there to be hired, but they were all hiding somewhere, and could only be found by a directed effort to seek them out.

Meeting the resulting requirements led to some genuinely creative definitions of "qualified". But in reality, there were only two categories of alternatives - either define down the job requirements until nearly any warm body qualified, or jigger the procedures for assessing qualifications so as to (often massively) misrepresent the candidates' abilities.

In private industry, out of the desperation induced by legal pressures, companies tended to create "nonjobs" with suitable titles and compensation but without the sort of responsibility that would cripple actual operations. Universities created dual tracks, the original degree programs and the "affirmative action" programs, which were basically remedial training but which were awarded the same degree. The civil service meanwhile went to two tracks on their standardized tests, grading non-minorities according to how well they did relative to the entire test population, and minorities according to how they did relative to other minorities only.

These "dual track" efforts to basically DEFINE very different groups as being the same, have largely failed. But the civil service does not have the "nonjob" option; they are obligated by law to treat all "90%" candidates the same (within the larger restriction that minorities must end up constituting NO LESS a percentage of all employees than they represent in the population at large).

All in all, it's been a Through the Looking Glass experience, where "merit" has morphed from an ability to do a task, to an ability to meet political expediency.

Date: 2006/01/12 05:54:23, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I try to rebut the best arguments against my position when I have time, and the only points I rehash are those that have been ducked by evos.

Fine if true, but there seems to be no real agreement here. My experience is that the "best" arguments are those for which creationists have pat (and long refuted) answers; arguments requiring creative thought are apparently too poor to answer.

Nor have I EVER seen any points "ducked" by "evos". At least on PT, every point any creationist has raised since I've been reading the site, has been answered so exhaustively as to represent the essential hijacking of every thread where any creationist point has been raised.

So I'm concerned that to a creationist, a "good" point is one he can dismiss easily, and "ducking" a point means failure to agree with it. I can see how this would get frustrating for both sides, one side because the other won't listen, the other because the first side doesn't Believe.

Date: 2006/01/12 06:07:32, Link
Author: Flint
Perry is simply trying to position himself where he thinks he will attract the most votes. When an experienced (and winning) politician takes a position like this, it's a very strong indication that the people of the state (his constituency) agree with that position.

Now, you might argue that anyone who leads by appealing to the most ignorant common denominator, leads his state in the same sense that the carved figurehead leads the ship. Nonetheless, as governor his decisions matter.

Molly Ivins is a national treasure, always worth reading. She has a sure instinct for the absurd, the corrupt, and the dishonest. Even if she only points that instinct toward Republicans and somehow overlooks Democratic exercises of these same skills.

Date: 2006/01/12 09:16:01, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Behind your reasonable paragraphs lies a nest of assumptions which, at least as far as I know, are neither established nor refuted. As such, they are statements of preference. I'd like to provide a slightly different viewpoint, just to see where our disagreements may truly lie.

Quote
The United States is bedevilled by extreme disparities in wealth and economic opportunity, disparities reminiscent more of Latin American banana republics than liberal democracies.

In all accuracy, these disparities have existed in every society where wealth can be accumulated. As you go on to say:

Quote
Many of those disparities are the result of factors over which no one has any control. Let's face it, people are born with different capacities and needs, and no amount of legislation can correct for those differences

But if differences in "capacities and needs" (not to mention kismet generally) always produce such a pattern, can we really denigrate it with words like "bedeviled"? The slings and arrows of the inevitable?

Quote
(although I can probably give Bill an aneurysm by saying "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" might be a pretty good prescription for a just society).

I suggest that such a philosophy is a matter of scale. It seems to be not only workable, but the ONLY workable approach, in very small communities (immediate families, very small and tightly coupled teams). It breaks down terminally where people begin to feel that the fruits of their labors aren't being directly reciprocated. YOU may be comfortable living in a society where productivity is penalized so as to provide rewards for being unproductive, but few people are, and by trial and error (or by anthropological observation) this point is reached somewhere in the 50-100 person community. Beyond this point, the temptation to consume more "justice" than one needs is beyond the ability of too high a proportion of the members to resist.

Quote
However, some of these differences in opportunity are the result of historical events that are not very flattering to America's self-image as Land of the Free and Home of the Brave™. A history of institutionalized slavery is certainly one of these, as is its successor, institutionalized racism.

No one denies that these things happened. While some may deny that there are any lasting effects, that's almost as ridiculous as denying the Holocaust. The effects are plain to anyone who is willing to see. Regardless of whatever statistics Mr. Bill would like to wave about as to the causes of the relative poverty of, e.g., African Americans, it's impossible to deny that there is a systemic disparity in the relative economic opportunity of African Americans (and others) as compared to white Americans.

While this disparity is undeniable, the circumstances of the Asian-Americans should not be so carefully tuned out. In comparison to African-Americans, the Asians share a goodly number of characteristics: They are immediately, visibly different. Offspring of European-Asian breeding look like the non-European. Active discrimination has been waged against them. They were never slaves, but they were surely demonized in the last Great War. During which African-Americans were segregated into their own military units, while the Asians were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. So it's hard to argue that Asians have been welcomed with open arms, or that they integrate so quickly into a European-dominated economy (as did the Irish, the Italians, the Swedes, etc.) that they blend under the radar.

Yet the Asians excel in schools, on standardized tests, in business and in technology. Why? What truly major difference leads to this astounding disparity in social success between Asians and blacks?

Quote
So, the question then becomes, what does a just society do to resolve these disparities? Well, one possibility is to just claim that African Americans are inferior to European Americans, Asian Americans, etc., and just ignore the problem, claiming it's either God's Will (if you're of that persuasion) or that it's Darwin's Will (if you're of the other).

And indeed, this claim is made. I don't buy it myself, but rejecting this claim entails drawing a distinction between inherent differences and *performance* differences across a wide spectrum of performance measurements. How can we measure inherent (biologically meaningful social) differences, without looking at performance against some measure? Not a simple task.

Quote
Another possibility is to take as a given that many of the problems African Americans continue to suffer from are due to their treatment at the hands of their fellow humans, those European American guys, either in the past or currently.

I'm sure this is largely the case. The question remains, WHY such an immense difference between blacks and Asians?

Quote
If one makes that assumption (because, after all, there has to be some explanation for the lack of economic success of the majority of African Americans), then one is obliged to come up with some sort of remedy. A possible remedy is what became known as Affirmative Action.

To the best of my knowledge, Asian-Americans have never been the target of Affirmative Action, because by all reasonable measures they haven't needed it. Yes, there have been articles (a recent major article in Science, for example, that in major research facilities, Asians make up over half the workers and only about 5% of the management. But this too is changing, without any targeted government program to force it to happen. All that was needed was to point it out. It's not like enough of the lower ranks lack the qualificatons for promotion, so in this case "Affirmative Action" met the original model - fully qualified candidates were in fact plentiful. And ironically, it's this fact that rendered any Affirmative Action program unnecessary.)

Quote
It is not difficult to make the case that Affirmative Action has not been very successful. However, how long was affirmative action practiced as a matter of law in the United States? 40 years? That's hardly a generation and a half.

And still Affirmative Action to artificially boost Asian-Americans has been practiced, well, uh, it hasn't. Hasn't been necessary. Again, why not? Perhaps it's possible that the reason why not might give us a pretty good clue why Affirmative Action was started in the first place, as well as why it has had relatively little effect. Asians fresh off the boat, not even speaking the native language, have consistently outperformed African-Americans in schools and in business (even within the ranks of organized crime). No two generations (or more) required.

Quote
How much success would one expect to see in a program over forty years that clearly would take generations to have a discernible effect on society? Would one expect to see parity between African Americans and European Americans on that sort of time scale?

Again (because you really DO need to address this), we see Asian success at truly spectacular levels *immediately*, much less after 40 years. We see Asians whose English is barely comprehensible dominating the graduate schools of our best universities. We see that they are financially doing very well indeed.

Perhaps we could argue that the previous immigration waves were mostly European enough to vanish in a generation of interbreeding, and that's why none of them ever required anything like Affirmative Action. But the Asians do not vanish by interbreeding.

Quote
(And in the meantime, I don't want to hear any whining about how Affirmative Action is "unfair" to white people. Take a look at the prison system and death row and then tell me you think American society as a whole is unfair to white people.)

This argument is not honest. Even if we grant (and it would be hard not to) that blacks are WAY overrepresented in the prisons and death row, and that given essentially similar fact situations blacks are WAY more likely to be convicted, and to get far heavier sentences upon conviction, this says nothing about fairness of employment opportunities. If you run a footrace, finish first, and someone you handily defeated is given the trophy because "his ancestors were mistreated, and people of his description are overrepresented in prison", have YOU been treated unfairly? Absolutely. I'm sorry, but when the qualifications for a desirable job are made explicit, and you spend perhaps years polishing your abilities to meet them, it's simply not fair to give that job to someone substantially less qualified because *some else somewhere else, unrelated to either of you* was treated badly.

Quote
This is what bugs me about conservatives. A program that conservatives don't like for ideological reasons (e.g., affirmative action, social security, medicare) had better work flawlessly or there's going to be constant pressure from the right to a) starve it of funds, and b) kill it once it's sufficiently weakened.

While I agree as far as you went here, I'm amused at where you stopped. It is true of people generally, of every description and ideology, that what they DO NOT agree with must clear a higher bar than what they like. As a subset of people generally, conservatives are orthogonal to this measure.

Quote
On the other hand, programs that are ideologically favored (SDI, Operation Iraqi Liberation -- oops, did I say that?) which clearly will never work, are funded to death, no matter what the results turn out to be.

Which is simply the flip side of that same coin. We all filter the world through our ideology, giving every benefit of the doubt possible to what our personal values find "good", and demanding miracles (and not seeing them even if they happen) otherwise.

Affirmative Action addresses, however ineffectively, a very real disparity whose cause isn't at all obvious (because if our "explanations" are correct, the Asians would be impossible). Maybe a better-aimed program would work better. SDI was technically not feasible. Social security seems a reasonably good idea poorly maintained - when it was started, age 65 was the average lifespan (not counting infant mortality) - i.e. the median worker died at 65, so only half the workers who paid into the system survived to extract from it. Social security might still be a reasonably good idea, if the eligibility age had been pegged to the median age of death. Because this didn't happen, the burden of supporting an ever-increasing percentage of capable but nonproductive citizens is beginning to exceed national wealth creation.

But anyway, your point that "conservatives" (you imply they have an exclusive on this) are the only ones to prefer their preferences, is frankly silly. "Liberal" is also a label implying a constellation of preferences. Are these necessarily more rational? Are you kidding? Are you really that incapable of noticing that YOU have preferences, which you find more reasonable? NOTHING is more reasonable than a shared prejudice. I may share many of yours, but I know them for what they are.

Date: 2006/01/12 11:53:48, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I didn't want to write at length on a tangent. Yes, when caucasian and either negroid or oriental lineages interbreed, there is a blend which at the tip of the curve produces someone able to pass as straight caucasian. But this happens only in a very small minority of cases (and the non-caucasian half of the pair generally has multiple caucasians in their ancestry).

I do admire (in detail) your example, however.

I raised this point because, while earlier European immigration waves without exception met with social rejection, their differences weren't so visibly obvious. Their children typically mixed without the remaining (often still strong) hatreds, simply because they neither looked nor sounded "different." So the bigot-on-the-street simply *could not be sure* that these people should be hated, and guessing wrong has always been considered gauche in these cases.

And so in no more than two generations, the various waves of spics, dagos, wops, kikes, micks, krauts, frogs and their ilk were indistinguishable from, you know, actual real people. But this has never really been true of either the Africans nor the Asians. An accident of biology, despite the occasional (and often spectacularly attractive) exception. And I mention all of this to counter the fairly commonly proposed notion that biologically visible differentness explains rejection of African-Americans, which explains their social and economic difficulties, which explains their bottom-of-the-barrel status despite having been freed 150 years back.

Quote
to be honest, most of the research I've seen has indicated that A.A. and Great Society programs have been failures.

Failures in the sense of not accomplishing their stated goals. Perhaps not failures generically. After all, *someone* benefits from every transaction. By now, 100 years after its creation, the Department of Mines does absolutely nothing except spend about $3 million a year supporting those who depend on the money. Is that department a failure? Depends where you sit.

Date: 2006/01/12 13:28:20, Link
Author: Flint
Dean:

Quote
And you are dissapointed that the descendants of slaves haven't scrambled onto an equal footing with 'White America' in 150 years?

Either you didn't read anything I wrote, or you didn't understand it, or (most likely) you didn't WISH to understand it. I won't repeat it. If you wish to laugh at something I didn't say, don't blame me while you do it.

Date: 2006/01/12 14:13:27, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
My point is not that wealth disparities exist in America. My point is that those wealth disparities are unnecessarily extreme.

No question about it, wealth disparities can be manipulated a great deal through national policies of various kinds. The real question isn't whether American disparities are unnecessarily extreme, but whether they are unnaturally extreme. Since the US has been engaged in a rather massive wealth-transfer program for some decades now, I suppose it's prima facie the case that these disparities are unnaturally small. I grant you that the Swedish (and similar) experiences demonstate by dint of truly extraordinary effort, these disparities can be reduced quite a bit more. So the question is whether these highly artificial wealth transfer programs are "good" national policy. And the answer to that question typically depends on whether you are an involuntary donor of the fruits of your effort to someone else, or the happy recipient of fruits someone else earned.

Quote
But most developed nations do in fact have just such redistributive schemes in place.

You're right. Is your argument that if most do it, it becomes righter? I doubt you could find many people so heartless as to refuse to lend a hand where a hand is required. A kind of "when you have to go there, they have to let you in" sort of thing. But perhaps what you do NOT want is to purchase institutionalized disincentive to achieve personal potential.

Quote
But I think there are significant differences in the degree of discrimination which are largely responsible for the difference in economic progress Asian Americans have enjoyed by comparison to their African American brethren.

With all due respect, I think your point about "systematically eradicated culture" is hogswallop. I admit I don't understand what the real reason is, but I notice that the other immigrant waves had essentially abandoned their cultures within two generations, voluntarily. They all became Americans. I grew up in an ethnic neighborhood where the grandparents (off the boat) spoke no English, the parents were bilingual, and the kids my age spoke ONLY English. We all ate the same food, dressed the same, etc. The melting pot, for these waves, was very real.

Now, what I'm trying to emphasize is that this basically total adoption of the new nation in language, dress, food, and values happened within the living observation of the immigrants. In other words, people are amazingly malleable, and these cultural adoptions happen FAST. Newborns brought to America from anywhere on earth and raised by Americans AS Americans, are as solidly American as anyone else. Indeed, enough such cases exist to indicate that there is nothing either historical or biological that can predict any such newborn's eventual social success. Instead, the best predictor is the social circumstances of the adoptive parents.

I certainly agree with you that there are "significant differences in the degree of discrimination" between African and Asian Americans. But why?

Quote
Of the Asian Americans who work for my company, the majority were born overseas, in their own cultures. How many Americans of African descent were actually born in Africa?

And how many of the Irish-Americans were born in Ireland? How many of the Italian (or German, or Russian) Americans have ever been to their ancestral countries, or know anyone who lives there, or even speak the language anymore?

ericmurphy, if an interbreeding population remains unassimilated after 150 years of full citizenship, the problem isn't isolation from some ancestral culture. These (as I point out) ancestral cultures are readily discarded by most groups, and don't remain central to the lives of ANY groups for more than a few generations. Even a group as insular (and targeted by bigotry) as the Jews has no need of Affirmative Action. Indeed, the Jews have been resented for being so successful.

Quote
I believe this difference in the history of African Americans versus Asian Americans really is at the root of the current disparity in achievement. Asian American culture receives a steady influx of immigration from the home country, something African American culture does not. There is no "root stock," so to speak, of African culture which can inform African American culture.

I admit I don't find this very plausible. Why is it that all those other immigrant groups have assimilated so successfully despite no greater "fatherland influx"? For that matter, Africa is a seething mass of microcultures, many of which are rapidly vanishing beneath the steamroller of Western language, dress, movies and TV, the internet...

(And it might, for all I know, be worth noting that Asians have been discouragingly successful managing their own nations, to the point where they present a genuine economic threat to US interests. By extreme contrast, Africans have systematically wrecked *every nation they have undertaken to govern* across all of Africa. And this despite massive injections of foreign aid (something the Asian nations have needed none of.) African nations are without question the most corrupt, brutal, vicious and racist governments anywhere on the planet. Several genocidal campaigns seem to be in process at any given time. Why?)

So something else is going on here. I don't know what it is.

Quote
Moreover, while there is a history of anti-Asian discrimination in the United States, it has simply never been as brutal, or as institutionalized, as anti-black discrimination. In short, the differences in the experiences of Asian Americans and African Americans are much more notable than the similarities.

While you're entirely correct that anti-black discrimination has been notably more vigorous than anti-Asian discrimination, and that levels of discrimination matter, I still submit that you are basically kidding yourself. Why would discrimination, even of different LEVELS, cause one group to excel above and beyond the caucasian baseline, while causing the other group to fall well short? Why would a quantitative difference in the same direction result in a truly drastic qualitative difference in opposite directions?

I admit I find your rationalizations reek of special pleading - for every justification for African-American performance problems, you can find several analogous groups defying your proposed pattern. Indeed, the Africans are the exceptions in every case. Discrimination - yep, against every one. ONLY the Africans need Affirmative Action. Assimilation? Yep, in every case EXCEPT the Africans. Divorce from original homeland's history? Yep, but harmless in every case EXCEPT the Africans. Why? Why?

Look, I want everyone to succeed. I'm opposed to all discrimination. But I can see pretty easily that giving every single member of some identifiable subgroup a fish every single day isn't working. Even if we followed Dean's all-heart-no-brains preferences and gave each of them a DOZEN fish a day, I strongly suspect we would not drive much personal achievement. It's not that I don't wish to help, it's that I want help to WORK. Repeating (or doing more of) what manifestly doesn't work, in the hopes that pretty soon it will work because we so very much WANT it to work, is futile.

Date: 2006/01/12 16:54:39, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
I think Dr. Diamond was onto something when he proposed that different degrees of socio-economic success are due to external factors, not genetic factors.

While I agree, experience shows these factors are nearly impossible to disentangle.

Quote
Obviously you do not agree with me that, 150 years later, that experience could have drastically affected the economic success of African Americans.

I think when the slaves were first freed, their economic circumstances were terrible. Leftover animosities certainly did not help, for generations. And institutionalized and habitual discrimination are certainly discouraging, for anyone. There is no question African-Americans have been dealt a lousy hand.

But strangely, ALL the immigrant waves have been dealt truly lousy hands. Maybe not quite as bad, but most of them were dirt poor, most of them didn't speak the language, most of them came from different religious traditions. Only the blacks have clung to the same lousy hand generation after generation after generation. The Asian experience shows that physically visible differences aren't the sole explanation either.

Quote
After 200 years of slavery, the Jews were freed through some sort of emancipation proclamation. How long would one suppose it would take these newly freed Jews to become the vibrant, successful members of society they currently are?

My reading is that Jews have been treated poorly for millennia, everywhere they've gone. But you may be on to something here. The Jews, as I wrote, are insular. They maintain the best goold-old-boy network the world has ever seen, extending from their exclusive religion (converts NOT welcome) to their practice of marrying ONLY one another, to a strong preference to hiring Jews if at all possible, to their fairly continuous distinct cultural practices. They represent a separate ethnic group biologically even moreso than African-Americans. They are hated and resented. They succeed. Something about the culture...

And whatever we may think of the Asians, they are without question (as a group average) hard workers, willing to sacrifice for the future and for their children. Imagine (I'll fantasize for a moment) handing welfare payments to poor Jews, blacks, and Asians. Is there any question the Jews and Asians would promptly bank or invest the money and *continue* to work hard? While the blacks by observation spend the money *in lieu* of working? Those black children who try to learn their school lessons and do their homework are dissed within their culture for "acting white", while successful blacks (professionals and executives) are despised as "uncle toms". Another cultural thing...

Consider the reaction of African "leaders" to the American political experience. Repeatedly, they have expressed slack-jawed incomprehension at the American President's willingness to HOLD an election ("but he has the POWER. WHY would he risk it?"), and then not to RIG the election ("but he controls the results! WHY would he not cause himself to win?"), and even LOSE an election ("but...but...he controls the MILITARY. He has all the POWER. WHY doesn't he USE it? Why? It makes no SENSE). Again, this is a cultural thing.

When I was much younger, I worked in a machine shop that was a mix of Italians, blacks, and Jews. I watched the distinctly different reactions to management. When nobody was looking, the Jews continued to meet their quotas. The Italians slacked off some, but kept working. The blacks never worked unless a manager was looking over their shoulder. When Affirmative Action came in, the blacks stopped working altogether, knowing they couldn't be fired. Which didn't stop them from shouting racism (and names) when the Jews were promoted and given raises. Dirty Jew lovers, the blacks sneered. Another cultural thing.

Where I worked until a few years ago, payday for everyone used to be every other Friday. On the assembly line, which was minimum wage work, everyone was poor. But the whites and hispanics returned to the line on Monday; the blacks only when the money ran out and they HAD to return. It became necessary to pay daily, Another culture thing.

But these things add up after a while. I see all of these things as ways to gobble your seed corn while shooting yourself in the foot. Indeed, black community leaders (another anomaly. There don't seem to be "community leaders" of other groups) sometimes express frustration at the sheer wideband unwillingness to *make any effort* to learn, to work, to study, to save, etc. After a while, you can only wonder.

Date: 2006/01/13 02:56:14, Link
Author: Flint
Sir Toejam:

Quote
I guess we can only see from this that overgeneralizing an entire ethnic groups' behavioral patterns is unproductive, huh?

If we are overgeneralizing, then of course we are missing something crucial. Like you, my experience in engineering is that the Aftican-Americans are at least as dedicated (and competent) as anyone, if not moreso. But Affirmative Action is not directed at an overgeneralization, but a statistical reality.

If we take as axiomatic that the connection between biology and culture is tenuous, then we are pretty much limited to seeking cultural explanations. As opposed to Jensen and others who point out that on the most predictive tests we can devise of mental capability, blacks consistently score one standand deviation below whites (and TWO standard deviations below Asians).

Of course Jensen, like you, is quick to point out that we're looking at largely overlapping bell curves, and we're saying nothing about any particular individual. But to the Jensenists, the social patterns we see in America (and across all Africa without exception) are unsurprising consequences of his measurements. Their (very) carefully worded conclusions say "What would you expect? These people lack the biological horsepower. We are describing test results accepted as valid and useful for everyone who scores average or above. Why do they become invalid for blacks?"

I reject Jensen's analysis basically for two reasons: first, I don't WANT him to be correct. And second, I think his measurement tools are problematic and indirect, and find Gould's The Mismeasure of Man persuasive.

Dean:

Yes, you make a good point about the aristocracy. As Gould wrote, class in Britain serves the psychological role race serves in America. I'm sure you would know far more than I do, but my limited reading of British sociology says that there are more class-based social stratifications than just peers and commons. In fact, that this stratification is maintained by a dual-track educational system.

The psychologists speculate that an underclass is a stable fixture of large societies because it serves self-image purposes. Sounds very wooly to me, but still, certain essentially class-based distinctions seem wired into societies in Britain, America, India, and elsewhere. And they resist eradication. But I admit this is something about which I'm totally ignorant.

Date: 2006/01/13 09:31:10, Link
Author: Flint
norm:

Fill me in on what the debate was about. Or alternatively, say something stupid. I'll be glad to reciprocate.

Date: 2006/01/13 10:00:09, Link
Author: Flint
When I clicked on Dean's link, I got
Quote
While trying to retrieve the URL: http://www.springerlink.com/(jjt3t2....03315,1

The following error was encountered:

Unable to determine IP address from host name for www.springerlink.com
The dnsserver returned:

No DNS records
This means that:

The cache was not able to resolve the hostname presented in the URL.
Check if the address is correct.

Date: 2006/01/13 11:05:41, Link
Author: Flint
I'd be more inclined to credit the recruitment function more than any other. At least in Western religious traditions, science comes across as largely superfluous - God has already told us all the meaningful answers. So those who find science attractive are those who do not accept, or are not satisfied by, the Received Wisdoms the Western tradition provides.

Date: 2006/01/13 13:24:37, Link
Author: Flint
Sir_Toejam and haceaton:

Here's the abstract of the Science article. I may need to rethink the influence some notions of ethics may have on economic activity...

Abstract: (I have reformatted a bit for easier reading)

Quote
The canonical model in economics considers people to be rational and self-regarding. However, much evidence challenges this view, raising the question of when "Economic Man" dominates the outcome of social interactions, and when bounded rationality or other-regarding preferences dominate.

Here we show that strategic incentives are the key to answering this question. A minority of self-regarding individuals can trigger a "noncooperative" aggregate outcome if their behavior generates incentives for the majority of other-regarding individuals to mimic the minority's behavior.

Likewise, a minority of other-regarding individuals can generate a "cooperative" aggregate outcome if their behavior generates incentives for a majority of self-regarding people to behave cooperatively.

Similarly, in strategic games, aggregate outcomes can either be far from or close to Nash equilibrium if players with high degress of strategic thinking mimic or erase the effects of others who do very little strategic thinking.

Recently developed theories of other-regarding preferences and bounded rationality explain these findings and provide better predictions of actual aggregate behavior than does traditional economic theory.


This article is by Colin F. Camerer of the California Institute of Technology, and Ernst Fehr of the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich.

Date: 2006/01/13 13:32:03, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

Your post reminds me of the joke where the wife demands that her husband tell her what he believes, and he replies "I believe I'll have another beer."

Your use of the phrase "have faith" could be replaced by "assign a high probability based on observation" without changing your meaning. The usage followed by religious people would make such a substitution meaningless.

I think we're dealing with more than straight semantics here, personally.

Date: 2006/01/13 16:48:53, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

Quote
If so, and religious faith has no basis in evidence, do you know what might have caused the change in faith?

Evidence. This is not a contradiction. The "unborn again" stories I've heard, of those who have managed to escape the fetters of faith, tend to describe an "AHA!" experience where the essential nature of evidence suddenly struck home. They tended to recognize that if reality is to be the judge, the claims being shoved on them were, uh, lies. But lies can't be identified without some profound "compared to what"? Evidence.

Quote
If religious faith did not depend in the first place on any evidence or experience, how did earthly events cause changes in this faith?

I can only expand on my speculation here. I work with a couple of Believers, and after some (reasonably polite and thoughtful) discussion with them, I've come to realize that they have roped off the "faith territory" pretty specifically. Of course, one would expect something similar, since the rejection of reality some faiths require, if broadly applied, would render them incapable of functioning at all. And I've noticed that within that territory, evidence is simply not admitted, the rules of logic and inference are inoperative, eyes glaze over and the professions of faith (in the sense of, I believe it, that settles it) are all that's left.

So what I think sometimes happens is, Reality ™ on some rare occasions breaks the barriers and invades this territory.

Quote
Also consider the flip side: people who have faith. Did they aquire this faith without any experience, teaching, or study? Since it was not based on "evidence" how did it come about?

Here is where St. Thomas Aquinas agrees with Piaget: Give me a child until the age of 7, and I will shape his faith. After that, anyone can have him, and the faith is secure. Dawkins has speculated (admitting it's wooly speculation, to be sure) that humans have such a very long period before reaching maturity that a survival trait has evolved: in early childhood, a kind of imprinting occurs, where the child takes *at face value* what it is told. Things like "don't touch hot stove, don't eat THAT, God is good, use the potty." Dawkins thinks this *biological* propensity willy-nilly gives parents immense power over a stonkingly large range of their child's future development. In all good faith, they can produce a John Stuart Mill or a Kent Hovind before the child is old enough for kindergarten.

Quote
Consider the person who had never heard of God, never had any religious thoughts, feelings or experiences, yet one day claimed they they had faith in god based on nothing happening at all. That would be strange wouldn't it?

My position is that beyond a certain age, this *does not happen.* It can't. Could YOU suddenly embrace the mythical Christ?

Quote
Suppose instead they said God sent an angel that spoke to them which was the source of their faith. Wasn't this experience evidence of God that led to their faith?

Now you're losing me. I recently read that self-professed UFO abductees almost always suffer from sleep paralysis, an otherwise uncommon malady. The effect feels like being tied down, and happens during a period of intense dreaming. I have personally worked with people who *sincerely heard* voices in the walls. At first, the voices frightened them - they knew perfectly well there were no voices in the walls. But this didn't prevent the voices from being audible and understandable, any more than someone who's had a leg amputated is prevented from an exasperating itch on the missing foot.

So the human brain plays nontrivial tricks with our perceptions. Which permits otherwise perfectly rational, evidence-demanding people to see ghosts, hear the Voice of God, experience aliens and out-of-body voyages, see themselves surrounded by pervasive conspiracies, and then build superstructures around these experiences they talk themselves into beyond extrication. I've seem aliens marching across the road myself, when I've been driving half-asleep and lighting conditions are just right.

Quote
A fundamentalist Christian friend of mine once said something to me that I found absurd. He told me "don't you think you should belive in God just in case there really is one! No joke, I think he thought saying that might help me believe. To me it is absurd to think that somebody could decide to believe something (have faith) with no experience, or indoctrination to base it on.

I find this kind of thing disturbing. I simply cannot comprehend how *anyone* could actually believe some of the stunningly preposterous things they claim. So you say that there are these gods that don't DO anything, but are still all-powerful? Right. And one of them screwed a virgin, who gave birth to a demigod? Right. And that demigod did lots of miracles, but nobody noticed until a couple generations after he died, at which time they were "recalled" by people a thousand miles away who weren't at the scene? Right. Hello? Are we looking at physical, organic brain damage here? Either that, or the human capacity for self-delusion is so profound one marvels that we can tie our shoes and come in out of the rain. If Dawkins is right, surely we have grounds for capital punishment of their parents, for (usually) permanently crippling their children beyond hope of rehabilitation.

I'm quite sure that I could alter my sexual orientation so as to become aroused by corn (at least the young and succulent variety), before I could believe in any gods, at least in the absence of any evidence for them. And as far as I'm concerned, if there WERE any gods, the evidence would be, uh, unambiguous. And correspondingly, I suppose the True Believers could more easily lust after cornstalks than abandon their delusions.

Quote
I'll agree that most likely we'll get nowhere asking believers to search for the basis of their faith, but I have faith that everyone does have a basis, and this basis can be considered evidence.

I've always been most persuaded by the "indoctrination during the first few years" approach, though I admit it doesn't always "set up" fully, and for the lucky few, the nature and meaning of evidence eventually penetrates that roped-off area. As far as I know, my own preference for best-fit explanations of the preponderance of the evidence were ALSO forged in infancy. No easier to abandon than those indoctrinated into Faith before they were old enough to defend themselves.

Date: 2006/01/13 17:34:35, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Even if the original faith was without empircal evidence, I'd guess it could be affected by encountering contradictory evidence.

My take is that if contradictory evidence is considered even remotely possible, the faith-based position has been abandoned. For the True Believer, contradictory evidence is intrinsically impossible, to the point where it need not even be considered. God does not violate His own Word. If evidence *seems* to contradict God, it can only because our comprehension is so wildly inadequate. Fortunately, we *already* have God's answers, by comparison with which we can tell when we've gone off the rails. We may not have the horsepower to understand how or why we've gone off the rails, but we can at least know we've done so and work from there.

Date: 2006/01/13 18:16:06, Link
Author: Flint
normdoering:

I'm reminded of Bill Veeck's statement, "I'm not handicapped, I'm crippled." (Veeck was confined to a wheelchair). Veeck didn't regard his physical shortcomings as a handicap in any way.

Stephen Elliot seems to be saying the inverse: "I'm not crippled, I'm handicapped." His brain works, but he doesn't know how to LET it work. It's one thing to recognize that one HAS a handicap. It seems something quite different to be determined to work around it, rather than wallow in it.

Date: 2006/01/14 10:18:15, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

The basic problem, as I see it, is that "intelligence" (whatever that means outside of any context) is a matter of such extreme sensitivity. Something I admit rubs me the wrong way about the idea that intelligence is a thing that we have, that some of us have more if it than others, that it reflects one of the most, if not the most important aspects of our individuality and capability, that it (at the very least) resists any effort to get more of it, and that it's so closely associated in our minds with personal merit.

As you might expect, I'm less than astonished that psychologists wouldn't cheerfully embrace a critique that dismisses both their assumptions and their tools. I'm also aware that Gould's own son had brain issues (clearly organic) resulting in abnormally wide variations in abilities. The single number being defended as the measure of the man not surprisingly ranked Gould's son solidly in the "worthless" category, a result sure to anger any father.

I think even valid arguments that Gould's skepticism about factor analysis are less than fully justified, miss Gould's point. Historical attempts to measure brainpower HAVE been used traditionally to buttress the status quo, and people in fact ARE capable of acquiring amazing levels of proficiency (or failing to do so) in ways that a single, set number implies are narrowly constrained. It just ain't so.

Mismeasure isn't even an attempt to be a scientific treatise. It's an attempt to show long-standing, systemic bias that has always managed to show that those doing the evaluation are "smarter" than those they *knew* were dumber before they began.

I ask you to imagine a psychologist devising any measure of brainpower, applying it reasonably broadly (including to themselves), and sincerely concluding "gee, I'm a lot stupider than I thought I was. My test must be accurate!"

Date: 2006/01/15 05:26:59, Link
Author: Flint
I think it might be more useful to regard religion as, at least in part, a fabrication constructed to justify in moral terms whatever people wanted to do anyway. It's not like any investigative reporter can independently interview your god(s) to see if you were *really* authorized, or if you just made it up.

Religion seems to perform two basic functions: It provides "explanations" for what isn't understood, so we don't have to admit ignorance. And it provides rationalizations for our own petty preferences that only a swearing contest can counter: God wants this. No he doesn't. Yes he does. Those whose self-interests are served, for some reason, are always on God's side. I've never heard of anyone whose prayers were answered by God telling them their opinion was incorrect.

Date: 2006/01/15 07:37:02, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
You are not saying you know people who have had their prayers answered are you?

Everyone I know who prays, claims that ALL their prayers are answered. They pray for X, something happens A-Z, and this is God's Answer. Not what they prayed for because God is so much smarter and more knowledgeable than they are.

But, I ask, since things just keep on happening, how can you tell which thing was the answer? It's kind of like interpreting scripture. FIRST, decide what you want. THEN interpret it to suit.

But, I say, I don't pray at anything, yet things keep happening to me too. They explain that God watches over all of us, even atheists. But in that case, I ask, why bother believing or praying at all? The payoff is the same either way.

I guess they pray to get God's attention focused in the right direction. It very rarely works, but it does so for Good Reasons. Honest.

Date: 2006/01/15 12:41:49, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
The real question becomes, "Are group differences in these traits due in part to genes?" We both agree the answer eludes the experts, but that doesn't detract from what they have discovered. And ignoring the problem won't erase the consequences of policies predicated on egalitarian assumptions (which I share). Skepticism is appropriate for now; will it always be so?

I think skepticism will always be appropriate. And I should point out that even Gould didn't take a position of "total nurture" - he readily admitted that the brain, like any other part of the body, was variable over (almost surely) some bell curve. He concedes in Mismeasure that differences in mental capability are surely (if only partially) biological. His focus was on the tendency of such a wooly measure to be self-fulfilling. The psychologists are contending that their measurement techniques are NOT wooly. They may be relying heavily on statistics and almost none on direct neurological examination (which, on humans, violates ethics). But their statistical rigor is as soundly based as they can make it.

And my own preference is to insist that someone's value (or even their mental muscle) can't be usefully described by a single number. That number encompasses and cancels out very real and meaningful distinct capabilities, and the number itself is subject to some considerable change with simple practice.

My concern has been that since I'm not a biologist, I don't understand how something as broad-spectrum as "intelligence" can have failed to regress toward the mean after a couple of centuries of fairly common interbreeding. Blue eyes, OK, maybe that's more of a on/off switch. But "intelligence" (whatever that means, since the meaning depends *entirely* on whatever (if anything) a specific suite of tests might be measuring)? The notion of an "intelligence gene" is absurd.

(Back a couple of decades, Charley Finley signed an Olympic sprint champion to use up a spot on the A's roster as a dedicated baserunner. The idea was, as one of the fastest people alive, this guy could steal bases at will. Finley kept the experiment going long enough (several seasons, and several hundred attempts to steal bases) to show that this sprinter's stealing record was distinctly below the major league average. Seems there's a lot more involved here than just speed. I read Gould as saying a lot of what we regard as intelligence, is a measure of what is kinetic, not just potential.)

Date: 2006/01/16 04:12:38, Link
Author: Flint
gregonomic:

Quote
As for Affirmative Action, I'm with ericmurphy - you can't expect a group of people that has been oppressed for a dozen generations to bounce back in 2 generations. Especially when the oppression has still been largely present for those 2 generations. The playing field is clearly not even level yet.

What bothers me is, IF you are right that it takes more than 2 generations to bounce back from adversity, why have all of the other immigration waves done so as easily as they have? ALL of them faced severe discrimination, most of them didn't speak the language, most of them were dirt poor, few of them had any formal education, and at least in the case of the Jews, discrimination remains virulent.

So as I tried to argue with ericmurphy, it's not sufficient to simply opine that 2 generations aren't enough for blacks, blithely ignoring the fact that it HAS been enough for *every other group*, despite explicit social handicaps. And this despite the fact that blacks have been the recipients of a long and growing history of targeted social handouts the other groups never enjoyed (including welfare, affirmative action, various child care programs, and so on. While these programs have failed to have the desired effect, they DID transfer a whole lot of wealth).

So even granting that this unique and vast discrepancy with respect to *every comparable group* is cultural, we still haven't identified what there is about the culture that causes identifiable and frequently-resented out-groups like Jews and Asians to excel, but causes blacks to lag behind. The best we can do is exercise special pleading on a case-by-case basis. So I still think something systemic is going on here that we haven't extracted from the overall pattern.

Maybe you're right and "major advances in our knowledge" of the genotype will explain a lot. But if it does explain a lot, then by implication the explanation of this unique display of social incompetence is biological. And if it IS biological, if Jensen is correct, then attempts at social remediation are misdirected. I personally don't want to believe that.

Date: 2006/01/16 04:39:12, Link
Author: Flint
This school district is like Dover in a very informative way: they are broke, they are cutting back "on teachers, on programs, on supplies. We used to give students pencils, and we don't even do that anymore." They can't help but be aware that a) they're guaranteed to lose the court case; which b) will cost them millions.

Yet the board goes ahead and votes for it anyway! Truly, religion addles the mind in fundamental ways. You stop wondering what they could possibly be thinking, and start wondering if religion LETS them think in the first place.

Quote
Now the Greens, evangelical Christians, homeschool their 12-year-old daughter. "That way we can teach her what's right, not what's mandated by the state of California," said Ron Green.


Maybe there's an insight here. They are raising their daughter to become a fully-qualified poor rural school district board member.

Date: 2006/01/16 05:44:00, Link
Author: Flint
Dean,

Quote
Since when was slavery an 'immigration wave'?

In a sense, it was. The slaves were not voluntary immigrants, but (not too arbitrarily) we can say that ALL people not Native Americans are immigrants.

Quote
and the idea that they were all dirt poor and uneducated deserves some investigation

You are certainly welcome to perform this investigation. Check out Ellis Island.

Quote
Many headed for the thriving industrial economies of the North - or to steal land from native Americans in the West.

Agreed. In fact, when the slaves were freed, many of them headed for the industrial north.

Quote
The Slaves were stuck in the Southern states, where the only economy to speak of had been built on their slavery

Only until after the American Civil War. After that, they were free to migrate around, and many if not most did exactly that.

Quote
where shortly after the civil war new legislation was put in by the States to specifically discrimnate against them.

Here, you make your first valid point. For nearly 100 years following emancipation, there were discriminatory "Jim Crow" laws on the books no other group of immigrants faced. Attemtps to integrate blacks into American society and guarantee first-class citizenship are only about 50 years old. And by the time those Jim Crow laws were repealed and efforts begun to correct the damage, a great deal of socialization had come to pass.

So here, I think you have raised a valid and excellent point. Other groups may have faced serious barriers on arrival, but those barriers had not become institutionalized - these groups could find their new identities, so to speak. But the blacks, for historical reasons, HAD an identify pretty well set in place by legal practices. MUCH harder to break out of.

Quote
there hasn't been a generation of Black people in the States that have lived without institutional adversity directed squarely at them. After Katrina I don't see that much has changed today - and it's clear that you and Paley are happy to keep things that way.

After many efforts, I must conclude that you are so convinced that I hold opinions I have never expressed, that there are no possible words I could write that would disabuse you of this delusion.

I agree with everything you say. What I have been asking is, WHY are things this way? Until we understand what causes this, our efforts to correct it miss the target. You seem absolutely convinced, for reasons I couldn't even guess, that even *recognition* of the problem must imply approval.

I am personally angry at the way things are, I think they are unnecessary, short-sighted, damaging, and in general a situation where *everyone* loses. Why else would I be trying to understand how to change it effectively? And you say I'm happy to keep things as they are?

Quote
I'm sorry to say you have gone down in my estimation Flint

If I were guilty of what you keep saying, your attitude would be justified. But here I find you doing the same thing you did on the economics thread: assuming that *noticing* an inequity constitutes approval of that inequity, and that any attempt to understand what CAUSES that inequity constitutes some sort of callous bigotry. Is it any wonder you seem to understand nothing, and all you say about me is not only wrong but outright stupid? After all, you've made it clear that your opinion of yourself would go down if you made the effort to figure anything out. You wouldn't want to get your mind dirty actually *looking at* the world's problems, when you could be preaching instead, and lying about the motivations of those with more immediate knowledge.

So let's just say that we disagree. If I'm trying to understand why blacks are at the bottom of the social rank, this doesn't mean I approve. If I'm trying to understand how supply and demand contribute to WalMart screwing up a community, this doesn't mean I approve. If I'm trying to understand what leads companies to pollute, this doesn't mean I approve of pollution. Except in your mind.

MidnightVoice:

Quote
I do think much of it comes from the history of slavery in the States versus immigration in the UK.  Lets face it, in the states the Civil War is not yet over, and there are places where the confederate flag is still revered.

I agree the reasons for the social stratification we see are surely historical. I live in Alabama but came from the North, so it's a bit jarring for me to see these flags and hear the frequently expressed desire to restore the status quo ante.

My view is that our incentive system is somehow backwards. There is little incentive to achieve if the achievements are disregarded or seriously under-rewarded. There is little incentive to reward achievement if there are no visible economic rewards for doing so. And this system is hard to change when it has been in place long enough for everyone involved to take it as a given, as the way things are supposed to be.

Date: 2006/01/16 06:17:20, Link
Author: Flint
Stephen Elliott:

Quote
As far as I can tell the only thing causing these people to underperform was the way they CHOSE to live life.

But life choices arise from socialization. I think you are saying that misguided efforts to lend aid both constituted an incentive not to achieve (paying people not to work, regardless of motive, produces less work. I confidently expect that this economic truism will convinced Dean that I'm a bigot!;)), and underscored the "you can't make it on your own" orientation increasingly taken as "truth" by everyone.

I had a pretty good friend at one time who was unemployed and collecting welfare. At the time, welfare was paying him about 80% of what a minimum-wage job would pay. His question was, "Why should I spend 40 hours a week making a net 50 cents a hour?" I argued that if he worked hard and did well, he'd be given merit raises, perhaps promotions, and work his way into some real money. He pointed out that for blacks, this *does not happen*, except infrequently and under duress. And he was quite right.

You can choose to take welfare or work for minimum wage. You can choose to be dedicated, work hard, and buy into the system. You can NOT choose to be rewarded appropriately by those in a position to do so, if THEY do not choose to cooperate. And here Dean is right: unless some bureaucrat (at considerable public expense) MAKES them cooperate, they don't do it. There is no reward for doing it, and there are dangers involved.

Date: 2006/01/16 08:11:32, Link
Author: Flint
Dean:

OK, I'll start with you.

Quote
you want to waste time speculating on why African Americans don't (on the whole) seem to benefit from your 'free market thinking' to the same extent as other groups in the US.

No. I'm trying to understand (1) Why blacks have not rebounded from the very real discriminatory laws they suffered under for so long; and (2) Why very sincere, very expensive good-faith efforts to effect such a rebound have had such a lousy record of success.

Quote
Persisting in calling Black entry into your country 'immigration' on a par with voluntary immigration by Europeans overlooks the one huge fact that ought to be staring you in the face.

Again, you misunderstand. These other groups, different as they may be for any number of reasons, are nonetheless the only basis we have for comparison. I presume you are arguing that their various circumstances have simply been too dissimilar to tell us anything useful. You may be right. I may be searching for patterns where there are none.

Quote
Pretending that discrimination against Black people ended with the abolition of slavery misses another fact.

Since I have never said such a thing, and in fact said *repeatedly* that very real discrimination continues in force, I don't know how you find any "pretense." This statement is either dishonest or stupid. You can pick either one. AND you can apologize.

Quote
Even debating the possiblity with Paley that differences in economic performance could be due to 'IQ' is the beginning of a slippery slope for you my friend.

Slippery slope to what? My goal here is to examine *every possible reason* for this difference. Apparently you have roped off one particular difference, despite a century of indirect evidence in strong support, as simply not to be considered. Your "let's not look at what we don't wish to notice" attitude is good hearted, I'm sure, but brainless. You just can't seem to see a difference between pretending something doesn't exist, and studying it to determine how much (if any) a contribution it may be.

My own conclusion, tentative and subject to change, is that there ARE some biological differences, but they are WAY lost in the noise of socialization factors.

Quote
Of course you won't do that because it might interfere with the blessed 'free market'. Tax cuts for the mega rich are a much more pressing priority for Mr Bush.

How is this even remotely on topic? I spend post after post after post talking about the nature-nurture debate, about IQ testing, about history, and suddenly you start talking about Bush and taxes. Please, take irrelevancies to another thread.

Quote
We're far from perfect - but the general consensus here is that everyone deserves a fair chance to get the most out of life. Paley can happily rationalise why certain 'ethnic groups' should be treated differently.

Your platitudes are wonderful, but the practice is unfortunately a lot harder. Yes, we want no unfairness, we want everyone to maximize their personal potential, we want no racial discrimination per se, we want everyone to have an equal chance to run the race. The problem is, what should we do when we discover that one group of people invariably finishes well behind everyone else?

Sure, we can take your attitude (indeed, we HAVE taken that attitude) that this difference in performance must be due to circumstances beyond their control. They don't CHOOSE to be descendents of slaves, or to be discriminated against in law and practice. It's not (at least proximately) their doing that the society they live in provides strong disincentives to achieve anything. How much blame should we attach if the disincentives of discrimination have a social effect?

And so we can attempt to change circumstances so they don't present any barriers or handicaps. But we also need to monitor our efforts closely, because we know what the road to, uh, heck is paved with. If our efforts are counterproductive, we need to recognize this and stop doing it. I'm certainly not recommending inaction. I DO reject the idea that we should make circumstances even worse on the grounds that we need to DO something, and we WANT our actions to work. Wanting, even wanting real real hard, so far hasn't worked very well.

Stephen Elliott:

Quote
How did you both come to that conclusion?

Personal observation. It's not just that the executives are all white and the peons are all black. The unskilled laborers are all black *except* the foreman, who is white. ALL the janitors are black except the head janitor, who is white. Surely you are familiar with "tokenism"? Blacks face the same sort of ceiling as women - only the truly outstanding individuals get the recognition granted to *adequate* white males.

Quote
Not to denigrate your friend but as a generalisation, people who say such things tend to not work hard anyway.

Permit me to laugh. People who work very hard, follow all the procedures, cut no corners, and STILL get no rewards, eventually don't work so hard. "Well, he's doing pretty well for a black, he's certainly risen above his station, no need to promote him any further, it will cause our deserving (read: white) employees to think we are discriminating!

Quote
Sir_T.J. has experience of working with blacks at the University level. So they are obviously succeeding.

Chuckle. First, you complain about generalization. The very next sentence, you refer to "they", which just happens to refer to one in a thousand. Hello? I work with a black engineer, and he is excellent. Of course, I live in Alabama, the local college turns out hundreds of black engineers a year, my division employs 50 engineers, and one of them is black. He's very good. He also manages people and projects pretty well, and has expressed a desire to become a manager. After 18 years, he's still waiting.

Quote
I have worked very closely with the US military in the past and they have blacks of all ranks.

This is a good point. In the military, color-blindness is rigidly enforced, everyone starts at the bottom (of their enlisted or officer tracks), merit is assessed as objectively as you'll find anywhere. And you're right: blacks and whites compete on equal terms; there are no visible inherent differences at all. As far as I'm concerned, the military experience shows as well as anything could that we're not talking about heriditary stupidity here. Which implies that whatever IQ tests are truly measuring, little if any of it is biological.

Quote
Back to the estate I mentioned in Wigan. Parents there tended to be on welfare and have low expectations for their children. They tended to take little interest in their young ones education. The children would tend to have low aspiration.

Understood. And I should point out that within Asian and Jewish families, expectations tend to be high and parental oversight of education tends to be close and responsible. So culture matters a great deal. The question remains: what is the most effective way to alter a toxic culture?

Date: 2006/01/16 08:46:46, Link
Author: Flint
Stephen Elliott:

Quote
Anyway, in my experience of working with people. All races seem to provide a similar spectrum of ability.

That's what so exasperating here. My experience is much the same. As ST and I have pointed out, those blacks doing any particular job, seem as qualified as anyone else doing that job, whether it be soldiering, engineering, university student, whatever. Yet blacks are WAY underrepresented in the better paying jobs, and OVER represented in the menial labor jobs. What is causing this?

Quote
I have an idea that if someones expectations are low, that is how things will generally turn out.

This is doubly true. If you have low expectations of yourself, this is how you turn out. If everyone you work for, everywhere you work, has low expectations of you, this is ALSO how you turn out. Even if you are self-employed (and the US has a program to promote and give special compensations to minority-owned small businesses), you struggle if your potential customers have low expectations of you. This tends to limit black-owned businesses (there are exceptions) to serving the black community. Where there is very little money (except for drug dealers).

Date: 2006/01/16 11:12:12, Link
Author: Flint
gregonomic:

Quote
For many, the only career path is to spend their whole life in a minimum-wage, service-industry job, helping to grease the wheels of progress, without actually reaping many of the rewards.

If this is really the case, I'd probably give up also. But the sheer number of exceptions to this pattern indicates that more opportunities are out there. My outsider's gut feeling is genuine merit is recognized, although for blacks perhaps it takes more merit per unit of reward.

Quote
and yet there doesn't seem to be much celebration of those achievements.

Celebration is perhaps hard to quantify. Just how much does my own standard of living improve knowing that people who resemble me have done great things?

As for achievement in sports, my reading is that this HAS had a profound effect in the inner city, where taking education seriously is frowned upon by the community, but being able to sink 25-foot jump shots commands real respect. Problem is, nearly anyone who gets a decent education can make a decent living, but only one in a thousand (or less) can make it as a professional athlete.

I think you're right, the questions I have need input from someone with direct life experiences I could never have. Perhaps I should quit my day job and become a sociologist?

Date: 2006/01/16 11:53:31, Link
Author: Flint
What I don't understand is the continuing concern with that place. So OK, they delete anything that doesn't support their position, they ban anyone who posts that stuff, and they gaze into their navel. They are the poster child for how they would teach the controversy, illustrate critical thinking, and exercise critical analysis of varying viewpoints, if they were in charge.

But in any of these respects, how are they different from any other creationist site? We surely all understand that the mentality they practice on that blog is a transparent window into how they defend creationism in their own minds. We get it. Now what?

Date: 2006/01/16 13:29:04, Link
Author: Flint
Dean,

I think we're mostly on the same wavelength here. There are a lot of variables.

Quote
I do think that 'economic liberals' like yourself seem anxious to put the blame for poverty on the poor.

I respectfully suggest you have tagged me with a label which means something to you, which you then assume is true of me because of your label. But the fact is that 90% of the individuals comprising the poorest 20% of the US population ARE different after 5 years. So while "the poor" always exist, the particular individuals who make up "the poor" have a surprisingly rapid turnover. And to me, this implies that poverty is something suffered by an individual and not generically by a group. Rising out of poverty just isn't that hard, it just takes determination. Have you ever been among the poor? I certainly have. I've spent time homeless, living on the street. I got through that, so I know it can be done.

(And I much fear that if Big Brother had given me just enough money to get by and get nowhere, I'd have gratefully accepted the money and gone nowhere.)

Quote
I think that you can be accused of the same thing.

Perhaps you're right. I don't know. Maybe we are making the error of lumping together into (by implication) homogeneous groups, disparate collections of people not particularly similar in the respects we're addressing. As expressed by the observation that within-group differences way exceed between-group differences. It may be that poor blacks have a good deal more in common sociologically with poor Jews, than they do with rich blacks.

Quote
If you really think that the history of slavery and continuing discrimination to the present day are major factors in limiting the social advancement of black people in your country

Yes, I do really think that. But I also tried to point out that other identifiable cultural groups (immigrant waves) have faced at least somewhat analogous circumstances yet escaped them with relative ease. In any case, I think you hit on the key difference that I missed: that freed slaves were explicitly, legally declared inferior and their group sociology molded by this condition, for a century following emancipation. After that long a period of time, attitudes are pretty well ossified on the part of *everyone involved*, every American of any description. Very very hard to overcome that. And 100 years of legally enforced inferiority is something no other group had to face in any way.

Quote
What do you propose Flint?

Sigh. I wish I knew. My training tells me that a combination of incentives and disincentives should work, but my sense of fairness tells me these should be applied equally to everyone. I think we're looking at a community or cultural problem here. Failure to reward effort seems neither more nor less corrosive than rewards divorced from achievement. I was amused to learn that in the civil service, it's a standing joke that if you're a black WAC with an hispanic surname and a wooden leg, you can have any job in the entire bureaucracy just for the asking. You count toward FIVE quotas at once. No competence required at anything.

As always (and just as with creationism), I think the 'cycle of deprivation' starts at home. Asians and Jews (and others) overachieve mostly because high achievement is demanded and expected of them right from birth. In the American black community, social policies (all well-intentioned, of course) could hardly have been worse:
1) Effectively a bonus (bounty) was paid for each illegitimate child a woman could bear.
2) BUT, only to single parents, meaning marriage erased the money.
The result, surprise surprise, was a LOT of young, single mothers. Who had to work, so the children were raised by the street gangs.

Interestingly, quite a few rather cross-disciplinary studies have finally tracked down why violent crime fell by fully 50% in the US during the 1990s. It's because in the mid 1970s abortion was legalized! The gang-member cohort was aborted instead, a win-win for everyone. Even though our social policies were STILL purchasing unwanted single motherhood.

So there's an example of a disincentive. I think as a policy, we should provide free abortions in inner cities.

(And somewhat along all these lines: The immigrant waves, I have read, lived in conditions of TRIPLE the people/room density of todays black ghettos, and they got NO welfare, and those who starved (quite a few) were simply left in the street. The incentive to get out of those circumstances was extreme.)

gregonomic:

Quote
I can't help thinking that someone somewhere has already ask the relevant people the relevant questions?

Well, everyone grinds an axe. And it's true to some extent that what's happening to you is hard to see if your nose is pressed too close against it. And what it SEEMS like to you may be misleading. I wish I had the time to study everything I find interesting, though. So little time, so much to learn...

Date: 2006/01/16 13:45:02, Link
Author: Flint
Last I had heard, Judge Ed Carnes, hearing the appeal of the Cobb Co. sticker case, was asking very discouraging questions. The theory of evolution really IS only a theory, right? And critical thinking IS what we want to teach, right? and shouldn't schoolchildren be exposed to more than a single side of an issue anyway? And just what's wrong with keeping an open mind?

So there was/is a very real danger that the 3-judge circuit appeals court will overturn and put those stickers right back on, pending yet another appeal.

Nor is there any doubt in anyone's mind that Judge Scalia would rule in favor of the stickers, nor that Thomas wouldn't rubber stamp anything Scalia wrote. Remember that Scalia dissented in the Edwards case, on much these same grounds. And I have little doubt that Roberts and Alito can't find ample legal grounds to encourage as many such stickers as they can find legal reason to bless.

Getting creationist-friendly judges appointed by creationist-friendly politicians is the proximate goal of the entire creationist movement. I personally think it's outright INSANE to expect a creationist judge to rule against the creationist agenda simply because it's explicitly prohibited by the law. That's not how creationists work, now or ever. In the creationist "mind", results are all that matter. Rationalizations can be fabricated as required, so long as the Good Guys win. Home cooking all the way.

Date: 2006/01/16 13:54:59, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Over here people can actually be worse off if they take a job. Now that is crazy.

Crazy perhaps, but essentially unavoidable. Let's say I pay you $X in social security. Now let's say you get bored and decide to return to work. Should I take the money away from you? Or perhaps should I subtract from what I was paying you, the amount your job brings in? Or perhaps I shouldn't reduce the amount at all, and allow you to supplement it as much as you can?

The same problems arise no matter what. If social security is paid to everyone, then a LOT of my tax dollars go to subsidize people who need the money FAR less than I do. But if we start means-testing for social security, the bureaucratic overhead becomes enormous. And the incentive structure changes a good bit too. I have the option of putting money into savings or spending it as fast as I get it. If the more I save, the more I will be penalized by "means testing" later, why should I try to save? I'll just lose the money.

Social security has also had profound effects on family structure. We need no longer care for our elderly parents; the State does that. Safety nets, like it or not, encourage people to take more risks than they should.

Date: 2006/01/16 14:40:46, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
Yep. They sure can. But I believe they can also be helpful

Now, stop and think about this for a moment. How can you be sure (which you say you are) that welfare and affirmative action can be counterproductive, unless they manifestly HAVE been counterproductive.

Which raises an uncomfortable question: Why do we need to wait more than 40 years to see the beneficial effects, of something even you can see the harmful effects from in far less time? Could it be that the harmful effects are a matter of evidence, and the "some day" beneficial effects are a matter of faith?

Quote
I'm saying they're still subjected to enormous levels of racial prejudice, far beyond anything Jews or Asians or even Hispanics are subject to

But why? Not many people are still alive today who even remember Brown v. Board, and none of those people are in power. You would think that given the intervening 50 years and the hugely expensive social programs, we'd see a LOT more improvement than we have. Something isn't working here...

Quote
Obviously just handing people a check every month is not going to persuade them of the need to get a job somewhere.

It persuads them that (1)they don't NEED to get a job somewhere; and (2) if they DO get a job, they'll lose the dole money, and (3) they are perhaps being paid to stay out of the workforce because they are not wanted.

Quote
But removing the incentive to work by penalizing welfare recipients when they actually do get jobs has got to be the worst of all possible worlds. Who came up with that idea. Was it someone who wanted the program to fail?

No, you have it backwards. IF you pay someone NOT to work, then you have two choices if they DO work anyway. First, you can continue the welfare payments, thus way overpaying them relative to standing-start competitors; or (2) you can stop paying them, which (as you say) penalizes them for working. But I can assure you, if the decision is made to pay certain people twice, once for NOT working and again FOR working, you aren't going to be very popular. Nobody pays ME not to work, over and above my wages for working.

Now, maybe we can have a sort of "weaning period" where we pay the ex-welfare recipient less and less, rather than yanking away all his dole at one time? This would provide at least a temporary very real bonus for going to work. And maybe we could freeze the dole wherever it is in the process of shrinking if the person should quit. This would provide an incentive to STAY employed.

But no matter how you cut it, paying someone not to work buys people not working. And once you've started down that path, you have very few good options for recovery. Perhaps the best option is to say "OK, now we are going to reduce your welfare income by $X per week until it reaches zero, *whether or not* you get a job. If you choose school instead, the payments will continue while you're in school."

Date: 2006/01/17 03:33:04, Link
Author: Flint
MidnightVoice:

Quote
Much of the right wing rhetoric about lazy and useless welfare recipients presupposes a level playing field

Rather than level/not level, we might more profitably consider the gradient. After all, nearly ANY 'minority' individual faces an uphill battle. In much of the business world, blacks are doing better than women. To carry this more-or-less to the limit, study after study shows that all else being equal, taller men do better than shorter men and attractive people do better than plain people. Thinner people outperform heavier people. The playing field is never level.

So perhaps in implying that blacks are lazy and women lack the ability, what we're really saying is that the slope they must climb is simply too steep for the majority of these people to negotiate. Short/fat/ugly/non-Christian (and so on) people also face a climb, but not so steep.

What interests me is the feedback effect. Which groups, faced with nearly insurmountable obstacles, give up and (justifiably) claim discrimination, and which groups roll up their sleeves and redouble their efforts? In both cases, a feedback effect is clearly operating. Which means perhaps an assumption of a level playing field is not being made, but rather an observation of how different people respond to a field tilted against them.

A great many different, partially-independent factors are operating here, and something bothers me about pointing to a single villain and then complacently believing we've identifed "the problem".

Date: 2006/01/17 04:08:13, Link
Author: Flint
MidnightVoice:

As someone who has been watching much longer (and studied some constitutional law), I think you are partly correct. The Supreme Court exists to hear questions of law and not questions of fact. Presumably, they specialize in taking cases where the law is ambiguous, or where two (or more) laws are in direct conflict, or where laws as written and practiced conflict with the US Constitution. My opinion is that this process necessarily has a political component, since what must be examined is the *intent* of the laws, and intent is political. Legal decisions (in the sense I think you mean) are made at the lowest levels, where the fact situations are considered, the law being applied is unambiguous, and most of the concern is with discovering the facts, not with interpreting the law.

Quote
Why else would everyone talk about getting a President to pick judges who agree with him?

Judges have to come from somewhere. Either they are elected directly (a political process), or they are appointed by those who are elected (another political process), with the consent of yet *other* people who are elected. There's no way to avoid this. However, there is some genuine concern that the nominee be competent, whatever his political leanings. This is why the Harriet Miers nomination fell through - she simply lacked the substance that comes from widespread respect in the legal community. By and large, that respect for legal acumen is (at least somewhat) independent of political orientation.

Quote
So if it goes to the court, there will be a political choice made, and what the law says will be irrelevant.

You have exaggerated the situation beyond reason. What the law says is always directly relevant. What the law means is at this level also relevant. WHICH law should be considered most closely applicable is relevant. There will also typically be a dozen or more precedents that overlap the given case in important (but different) respects; which of these precedents is most useful?

I might, in the interests of both Panda's Thumb and current events, point you to the Dover decision. This decision was made by a conservative, Lutheran judge appointed by the current Bush, with the approval of the Republican Senator from his state. Now, was the law irrelevant to his decision?

Date: 2006/01/17 05:32:10, Link
Author: Flint
MidnightVoice:

Yes, I know what you're saying. So your task, should you choose to accept it, is to construct a document describing and defining a stable government, which will remain useful and relevant for centuries to come, without being too vague to mean anything. And while you're at it, you had better not antagonize very powerful State interests, which often conflict with one another. And of course, your document must be approved by a majority of the eligible voters. And a couple of centuries hence, when conditions and technologies are beyond any possibility of prediction, judges must be able to use your document to guide LEGAL, as opposed to political, decisions. Go for it.

Quote
His or her interpretation trumps the will of the people, if the two differ.

This statement assumes there IS a will of the people. In reality, there is an enormous constellation of conflicting self-interests, which overlap with other self-interests in some ways but not others. Ordinary citizens have not uncommonly found themselves on both sides of legal cases with essentially similar fact situations, but different vested interests. "Justice" in the minds of the average litigator is indistinguishable from "me winning the case."

Quote
One of the biggest indicators of politics in the SC is the fact that so many decisions are 5 to 4.  Clear and obvious the answer is not

Of course, we realize that if the answer WERE clear and obvious, it wouldn't have got past a plea bargain at the trial court level.

Ironically, at the time it was first enacted, the 2nd Amendment WAS clear and obvious. The States were worried about losing their sovereignty through Federal military adventures. Neither the federal nor state governments could afford to arm a milita; these were gathered from among ordinary citizens and trained to military needs as required. Every eligible citizen had his own arms; these were necessary for survival in most of the country. 'Military arms' wasn't a meaningful notion. So the states made sure that the federales lacked the constitutional authority to disarm their citizens.

So the questions you ask only became meaningful as times changed, military technology far exceeded household requirements, antagonism between federal and state governmental levels became a dead letter (at least at the military level), defense became a national and never a state concern, and the national preference moved toward standing military forces. Gradually, the conditions had changed to the point where the initial concerns were entirely moot.

I'm willing to agree that of necessity Supreme Court decisions are largely political, and that political orientation matters a great deal. But it still serves as a check on other branches of government. If they are WAY out of line, Congress sometimes passes laws to overrule them (which they can do), or even pass entire constitutional amendments to correct misguided Court decisions (the 16th Amendment is just such a case). It's a constant juggling act, and seems to work pretty well most of the time.

Date: 2006/01/17 08:25:33, Link
Author: Flint
If they knew what they were doing, why would they cave like this? Were they hoping that nobody would notice? Or didn't anyone advise them of the law and the cases elsewhere? Were they bluffing to earn political capital ("we tried, people, but those mean atheists hate you almost as much as they hate God")

Date: 2006/01/17 10:18:11, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Insurmountable obstacles? Care to back this up with noncircular reasoning

Are you serious here? The Jim Crow laws were very real, lasted for a century. Are you now going to argue that these had no effects on the community they were designed to keep as an underclass?

Alternatively, you just stated "few reasonable people would deny that blacks still face discrimination." So you recognize that discrimination is there. Are you attempting to quantify its intensity? I think a rough quantification could be determined from quite a wide variety of sources, in real life. How would this be circular?

Quote
And what power renders these obstacles inoperative in government, sports, and entertainment?

This is actually three separate questions, and their answers are informative. In government (and in the military), it's by administrative fiat. Quotas have been set up within the Federal bureaucracy requiring specified percentages of minority employees, of minority promotions, of minority managers, etc. The civil service mandates these *willy nilly* without regard to demonstrated competence. So that's one answer.

In sports, the goal is to win. Just win. But I hope you are aware that it wasn't always this way. Baseball had the Negro Leagues for decades, because a color barrier was enforced. And blacks have been allowed into other sports only with reluctance (there's a movie about this out right now). I believe that as the paying spectators became increasingly willing to pay to watch black athletes win in preference to white athletes losing, the emphasis shifted from color to performance. And in sports, performance is much easier to measure objectively.

Entertainment has been another area with very real barriers. Bill Cosby's show was a real breakthrough, and black actors and actresses are narrowly limited to the kinds of parts they play. Being black is still visible enough so that whereas a white actor plays a character, a black actor plays a black character.

Quote
In order to prevent this from happening, in fact, I think I'll set up lots of minority colleges, scholarships, corporate recruitment programs, and even burden black folk with preferential access...

You are pointing out that sincere efforts are being made to correct real problems. (Once again, remember you yourself admitted there is very real discrimination). I think the problem has been that true color-blindness is impossible to enforce. Administratively, it's a lot easier to try to break the pattern with targeted programs. But these programs do little if anything to address the sort of habitual racism historical social stratification has generated.

For a snapshot of where blacks stood after legal segregation was abandoned, I suggest you read John Howard Griffin's book Black Like Me.

The playing field HAS been tilted up nearly vertical for both women and blacks, and gets pushed back down only slowly and with great effort, some of it counterproductive. I mentioned that I work with about 50 engineers, only one of whom is black. The number of women is, well, zero. This is almost surely not biological.

Anyway, the obstacles are not deduced from statistical performance measures, they are observed directly. You could as easily argue that we deduce gravity by circular reasoning: things fall because of gravity, and we know it's gravity because things fall.

Date: 2006/01/17 12:09:07, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
And yet somehow they overcame this despite widespread prejudice. So apparently Jim Crow didn't present an "insurmountable" obstacle in the sporting world.

No, the point is that it DID present an insurmountable obstacle. And it wasn't the blacks who dismantled this obstacle either.

Quote
So why does it do so in other fields?

There is no more Jim Crow, not explicitly. The argument here is that a century of legal oppression led to deep-seated cultural practices and expectations, that don't just go away. The fact remains that until the Jim Crow laws were repealed, they worked. They worked for a century. Cultural norms and outlooks grow pretty deep roots in a century or two (counting the years of slavery).

Quote
Don't engineering firms "want to win"? Aren't there economic costs associated with rejecting qualified blacks in favor of mediocre whites?

Yes, and yes. My reading of this history is that there were also very real economic costs associated with hiring people the *other* engineers refused to tolerate. I've seen the sort of refusal I'm talking about (here in Alabama, it's all too common) and it's evidently not something that happens at an intellectual level. It's a visceral rejection, as involuntary as a belief in God, ingrained from the same infancy. Yes, people could make every effort to force themselves to work with blacks, but it took a social sea-change before this was effective.

Quote
In fact, wouldn't competition be even fiercer in an industry that doesn't have an antitrust exemption and isn't ruled by potbellied rednecks like baseball was (and to a certain extent, still is)? Curious minds want to know...

Once again, the kind of tolerance you're talking about isn't voluntary. It's a matter of upbringing. I knew a man (who recently died, at age 92) who played with Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. And he literally could not watch the Alabama football team play on TV, because they had black players and he became sick to his stomach. He couldn't help it! Watching this, I started to realize that racism is much like religious faith. It's not something you decide to do or not do because of a cost/benefit analysis. The only cure for either one is to raise the next generation with a healthier outlook. This takes time. It ALSO takes a willingness to consider that one's racism/religious faith is not so healthy, and maybe the world would be a better place if these pathologies were less virulent. Certainly Buck (the football player) raised HIS children to know the Negroes' proper place, and make sure they knew it too. For him, yet another article of faith. And this kind of attitude, again, isn't something easily set aside.

Quote
He argues that discrimination is greatly diminished now, and that blacks can succeed with less than superhuman effort.

I agree. As you said, there is still very real discrimination, and success in many areas (many more than there once were) is newly possible, or possible with MORE effort than whites require, but not superhuman.

So the question is, what has in fact caused discrimination to diminish so greatly? Could it be that programs and policies explicitly intended to neutralize, defeat, or otherwise circumvent discrimination are partly responsible? Discrimination being "greatly diminished now" implies that it was "greatly worse then". And "then" seems to have lasted from the importation of the very first slave, pretty much undiminished UNTIL these government efforts began. And while perhaps some of those efforts have been misdirected, they have changed the attitudes of most people over the course of a couple of generations.

And since I also have a curious mind, I'd like to ask you: what do YOU propose should be done to eliminate discrimination?

Date: 2006/01/17 16:18:30, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
All that a society can do is reduce it to manageable levels. This has been done. Now it's time to step back and stop rewarding dysfunctional cultures.

Is this really what you feel is being done? My reading is quite different. I read that welfare is no longer open-ended; that bonuses for illigitimate children aren't being paid (or have been reduced to the point where they aren't very enticing), that welfare payments have time-limits and job-search or educational requirements attached.

Most of the list you provided, of special college admissions and scholarships, government contracts, etc. only reward those who abandon a dysfunctional culture. They are exactly the sort of enticements you should be favoring: wallow in poverty and resentment, get nowhere while subsidies shrink. Get out of that cycle, go to college, go into business, get rewarded. And as I said, it seems to be working.

And I think it's not really a bad idea. The rewards accrue to those who *leave* that culture and get co-opted into the mainstream. But I think the real measure, across an entire population, is in the parenting practice. So long as the all-too-typical child is born to a single mother, dumped into a daycare institution, then attends a school whose primary function is extended daycare and whose administration is more interested in preventing shootings than teaching anything, while the parent pays no attention to the environment and provides no encouragement to learn, while the "community values" provide active DISincentives to learn anything, the task has a long way to go.

At times, I get the sense that if anything had been up to you, you'd have left the Jim Crow laws in place. But rather than assume, perhaps I should ask: do you think that a policy of benign neglect should have been adopted before now? And if so, when?

Date: 2006/01/18 06:13:12, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

OK, fair enough.

Quote
I think that A.A. policies have outlived their usefulness, and believe they should have been dropped around 1994.

Personally, I find this a bit too broad. A.A. policies cover a fairly wide spectrum. But clearly there are bad as well as good aspects to policies that place individuals into positions whose duties they aren't competent either to perform, or to reasonably learn to perform. I followed (way back when) the experiences of a top graduate school which had established a strict quota of allowing 12 minority (black) students per year. However, they provided no dual track or remedial training. All the students were put into the same courses and given the same tests. Each year, all 12 black students flunked out after one semester. And this being a top school, they had their pick of the most qualified black applicants nationwide.

Now, let's consider this as a case study. Should this graduate school have accepted NO minority students? As I'm sure you realize, these 12 students displaced 12 qualified students, and the differences in qualifications were easily noticeable to the admissions committee. Or having accepted known-unqualified college graduates, should they have provided the remedial material necessary to come up to speed? But this is expensive in time and money, for everyone. Or (as other universities did), should they have established a dual-track system producing both real and "Kent Hovind" doctorates?

So we move back down the ladder to the secondary school system. In much of the country, these systems are still de facto segregated. And the minority-dominated school districts have a good deal less tax base to purchase a decent education. But the problem isn't exactly there either (many impoverished school systems produce outstanding college graduates). And maybe here is where we disagree:

Quote
I've got news for you: bad schools become that way because of the students. If the students would behave, the problem would be solved.

I would argue instead against the parents. If the parents are not around very much, and/or if they simply don't care, then you're going to have a preponderance of bad students in ANY school system. This is why cultural barriers are so hard to break. But show me any good student, and I'll show you parents who WANT their child to be a good student.

Quote
And many of the good students actively support the dysfunctional culture that produces the bad ones.

I have also read that the peer pressure is very powerful.

Quote
Now let me ask you a question if I may:
What's so evil about restricting immigration to those nationalities that:
1) Have proven they can compete without Government arm-twisting
2) Don't look at Western Culture as a tumor that must be eradicated (and the people along with it?)

In fact, this is how things stand today. Immigration limits on non-Northern European cultures are quite strict (and we all know that the only people worth associating with come from Northern European countries, right?). And those Northern European quotas go WAY underfilled decade after decade. Meanwhile, illegal immigration from Mexico and the Far East is rampant. Illegal immigration from Africa isn't something I've ever seen mentioned at all.

As I've said repeatedly on this thread, most members of most immigration waves have NOT arrived able to compete. They were poor, discriminated against, and didn't speak the language. So I think you're really asking to restrict immigration of those who won't BECOME competitive or will STILL be antagonistic a couple of generations down the road. Can you predict this? On what basis?

Let's say you're a Mexican or an Arab. You can't compete today. But does your nationality indicate that you personally can never compete, or that you personally think the nation you're adopting should be eradicated? Are these characteristics of nationalities, or of individuals?

Quote
In other words, let's say France had been importing millions of N.E. Asians, Indians, and Jews instead of North Africans. Do you think that their economy, crime rates, and standard of living would be better or worse?

I would hope it would depend on the experiences these people have in France. If they are restricted to ghettos, and systematically NOT hired into (or promoted into) decent jobs, and basically treated as worthless, I would imagine ANY of them would eventually protest. The key for me isn't nationality or geographic origin, it's *access to opportunity*. If that access is real and not a sham, then these problems can be avoided. But it has to be real access (not tokenism) and real opportunity (as level a playing field as we can engineer).

And a great deal of that hinges on the expectations of those in the predominant culture. Again, there's a real feedback effect going on here. People will hire any minority individual they expect to work hard and follow the rules. My experience is that the majority types in the US expect blacks to do neither one -- yet when obligated by "government arm-twisting" to hire one anyway, they find that, by golly, he DOES work hard and follow the rules most of the time.

And so I think the real goal here is to modify expectations, on the part of everyone. And maybe the front lines are the parents. That's why I suggested free abortions in inner cities. A way of emphasizing that you don't NEED to have any child you don't want. And if you WANT a child, then you're more likely to care about that child's education and his future. And while we're at it, do NOT pay a bonus for having unwanted children! And do NOT demand that the man of the house be driven away before any assistance is provided.

I think there are workable, effective sets of incentives and disincentives that can be put into place, that wouldn't cost a great deal.

Date: 2006/01/18 07:54:13, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Could we cut out the snide insinuations in the future?

No snide insinuation. The unreachably large quotes set for Northern Europeans and the very small quotas set by those least culturally similar TO those of Northern European extraction are NOT accidents. They were set that way very explicitly, and for the purpose I stated: We wish to encourage immigration of those like us, and discourage immigration of those different from us.

Quote
but taking all these considerations into account, could you please answer the question

Since I gave the best answer I could, I guess you want me to keep rewording it until it fits into the round hole you have prepared for it.

I grant that there are indeed cultural differences between Jews from (perhaps) Germany or Russia, Indians (but only the higher castes, remember), N.E.Asian (I guess you mean Japanese?), and Algerians. Take groups from different places around the world, and you'll find cultural differences.

I'll also agree that those cultural groups you identified have a history of being industrious and law-abiding. So AT FIRST, I would expect them to contribute a lot less to the crime rate. However, if opportunities are closed off, I wouldn't expect them to contribute much to the standard of living, this being prohibited. And given a few generations of being prohibited from rising socially, doing anything worthwhile, etc. I'd expect them to be much like the Algerians are today.

In other words, I think subcultures are indeed shaped by the vessel within which they are enclosed. The argument that they are biologally incapable of following the norms of the adopted culture seems highly unlikely to me. And if a group can be repressed and the culture suffer accordingly, then presumably changing the incentive structure will also change the culture for the better. Or do you disagree with this?

Date: 2006/01/18 09:46:00, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I actually agree with what you say, but I don't think you've addressed ericmurphy's point, which eventually I came to understand better.

I've never lived in a black community. I have lived at least fairly close to a Jewish community, enough to have close enough friends to understand their culture. And that culture has a good many mechanisms to defend itself. My observation is that the black subculture is nowhere near as coherent. There are Jewish criminals, but they don't prey on other Jews; blacks prey mostly on other blacks. So I know a great deal more is going on here than meets my eye.

Let me give you a hypothetical case in exchange: Let's say you were to take a few dozen black infants and have them raised AS JEWS in the Jewish community, complete with all the bells and whistles, and treated by other Jews as being no less Jewish in any way. Do you suppose this treatment would produce a group of black Jews more similar to the black community in the attitudes you desribe, or more similar to the Jewish community?

Along these lines, there have been numerous cases where subcultures within the black culture have bootstrapped themselves without being propped up artificially by outside assistance. Conversely, there are (albeit small) communities of Indians, Koreans etc. who have joined the "permanent underclass" poor.

So both bootstrapping and giving up are always options. I notice as you do that different cultures are more robust, more resistant to imposed difficulties. I don't know why. Maybe the Jews would never become like the Algerians, even after centuries of slavery. Not an experiment I think we should conduct, of course. But if a culture is described as a coherent, shared set of values, we simply have a different challenge; not so much how do we help the people live better or make more money, but how do we help instill cultural values of industry, education, and accomplishment? By giving up?

Quote
I just can't picture Jews and Asians torching ghettoes. For one thing, their living areas would never have become ghettoes.

I notice that the meaning of 'ghetto' is broad enough to describe ANY enclave where a minority lives, whether due to restrictions or voluntary. It's actually technically correct to refer to Beverly Hills as a rich-pig ghetto.

Date: 2006/01/18 09:54:37, Link
Author: Flint
A "design theorist" is anyone who has any degree even remotely technical, and has more-or-less mastered the art of using scientistical jargon to disguise creationist beliefs, and can thus be pointed to in support of the claim that creationism is scientific.

Alternatively, a "design theorist" is anyone espousing creationism, that someone with creationist leanings can be persuaded is a scientist. Saying "he's a scientist" is usually sufficient validation.

Date: 2006/01/19 08:41:26, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Let me see if I'm following your argument. You seem to be saying that a truly heterogeneous population will stay essentially balkanized, and never fully integrate in those ways that are important to the coherent operation of a nation - i.e. in terms of goals and values and viewpoints.

And furthermore, that balkanization is by definition a bad thing, because it introduces too high a level of conflict impossible to resolve except partially and even then at great cost.

Except that some groups, while they seem to remain identifiable and distinct, nonetheless have value systems that are positive in the sense that they don't lead to too much conflict and, integrated or not, these groups are productive and valuable.

Finally, we can identify which groups end up being more trouble than they are worth, cost the nation too much money, effort, and conflict without anything close to compensatory contributions. And experience has taught us that even extraordinary targeted efforts at solving these issues have little overall effect, while exceptions are isolated and limited.

And THESE groups we should...well...I'm not sure. If they are NOT here, keep them out. If they ARE here, what? Exterminate them? Rope them onto reservations where our neglect makes them least threatening? Round them up and ship them back to wherever they originally came from?

Have I got this right?

Date: 2006/01/19 09:02:43, Link
Author: Flint
This is, once again, how they "teach the controversy" and "critically evaluate both sides" when they control the forum. It also describes perfectly how they maintain their faith in the face of evidence. Does anyone have any doubts how evolution would be presented in science classes if the creationists could dictate the curriculum? Would we see any controversy at all?

Date: 2006/01/19 09:48:37, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
the differences are due to (according to me, at least) hard-to-change cultures (not biology).

My own reading is that biology is without question a contributing factor, in the sense that biology can contribute to enforcing the distinctness of a group, ensuring that a group stays more heterogeneous. But I don't think biology has anything to do with the nature of a culture, only to do with it staying distinct. To be blunt, I think that African-Americans will *always* have a distinct culture. But it need not be so dysfunctional.

Quote
but put more effort into aiding their native countries

Personally, I've never seen any evidence that this works. Hard enough to modify a culture of a minority within our own population.

Quote
If they're here, treat 'em like every other citizen, because that's what they are entitled to. Of course, charity and tax incentives would be used to address inequities. No race laws, however.

Is Affirmative Action a race law? It also applies to women. And tax incentives are just another form of payment. Economically speaking, there's no substantive difference between me giving you $10, and me NOT taking $10 away from you. But I think we agree that we can probably come up with some combination of carrots and sticks that can encourage cultural change in positive directions. After all, the presumption here is that such a combination screwed up a culture in the first place.

Now, just for grins, let's say this approach works, and values of industry, integrity, knowledge, etc. actually DO get injected into the culture. Should immigration then be permitted?

Date: 2006/01/19 10:45:25, Link
Author: Flint
evopeach:

You may genuinely enjoy this book. Not only does it cover a lot of ground you seem totally unfamiliar with, but it would let others know that your subsequent pronouncements along these lines were lies rather than merely ignorance.

It's pretty easy to understand. Granted, it's an entire book, but outside your religous reservation, knowledge doesn't come packaged in Received Slogans. Sorry about that.

Date: 2006/01/19 11:27:57, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Please continue....this is interesting.

I don't know what I can add at this point. We need a sociologist, and I don't think either of us qualifies. Of course, neither of us qualifies as a biologist, an economist, or anything else that would threaten to inform our speculations at all.

Date: 2006/01/19 11:59:46, Link
Author: Flint
Stephen Elliott:

Quote
I can think of 1 case where social aid seemed to work. The Marshal plan for European re-growth.

May I argue that the Marshall Plan really does not resemble what I think Ghost is talking about?

Granted, the Marshall Plan worked very well. What it did was permit the rebuilding of a damaged physical infrastructure and permit trade to operate on credit. What it did NOT do was change any cultures. The rebuilt governments were (with some corrective features) just like the old ones, the economies were like the pre-war economies, and most of all the people both before and after the war were the same dedicated, meticulous, hard-working people.

My position is that this sort of aid was entirely reasonable and in-scope for the task. Now the question is, what sort of assistance (that is, in what form and to whom) should we provide to get parents generally to place high value on education? What sort of aid reverses the cultural practice of denigrating diligence or achievement as "acting white"? How can we provide incentives that will lead to gang membership NOT being the thing to do? That will lead to the conviction that crime hurts everyone no matter who the proximate victim may be?

Date: 2006/01/20 06:09:04, Link
Author: Flint
Raging Bee:

Quote
The difference is important: the mere fact that the constant is to our liking, does not prove it was "fine-tuned" by anyone.

David Heddle has already addressed this: As he sees it, the purpose of the universe is to produce us. This is, as Heddle himself says, something you simply accept as a given. We are not an arbitrary result of contingent accidents, we are the *purposeful end product* of the universe. Yep, you and me (and especially David).

And Heddle, as I read him, even admits that if you do NOT accept that the universe was crafted expressly to produce us, then in addition to being wrong, you have no particular reason to prefer any set of constants over any other.

Date: 2006/01/20 08:36:21, Link
Author: Flint
Seems pretty clear how creationists would use power if they ever got any.

Date: 2006/01/20 09:39:40, Link
Author: Flint
Robertson himself is 75 years old, and his euphemizing circuitry seems to be degrading. As a result, he says what his followers agree with too directly, making everyone uncomfortable. More politically-aware folks who agree with him, still have the sense to phrase their bigotries and lunacies in the form of nominally inoffensive generalities containing the embedded keywords associated with, well, with what Robertson is saying today.

I would say this lack of filtration is costing Roberton power, but I would NOT say that those for whom he speaks are therefore less powerful; it's just time for them to adopt a new spokesman, hip to the latest platitudes about "critical thinking" as performed by "a growing number of scientists."

Date: 2006/01/20 10:51:39, Link
Author: Flint
Darwin himself found "grandeur in this view of life", so it's not impossible to find it uplifting.

But I suspect this is a very different sort of uplift. The real world, for some people, may not be nearly as fascinating as the world of their imaginations. All they have to do is assure themselves that what they dream up, is actually true. And then believe it. It's that last step that others find difficult. "I'm not lying to myself, honest. Right? Right!"

Discovery is always exciting, even if you're discovering things others already know. Making Stuff Up, for me, just somehow lacks the impact.

Date: 2006/01/20 13:48:28, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
The day DaveScot decided to ban anyone who'd ever contributed at Panda's Thumb

Nope. That would be a *principle*, and we know he doesn't have much concept of those things. I'm quite sure he'll ban people based on arbitrary, unpredictable case-by-case preference. Kind of like interpreting scripture: If it ain't capricious, it's meaningless.

Date: 2006/01/20 14:26:21, Link
Author: Flint
Dean:

Quote
I think it's pointless talking to 'Gop' - someone who will work his peculiar, 'POV', into any topic.

You are letting personalities override your judgment. Ghost has taken a coherent, and as far as I'm concerned entirely reasonable, position. He is advocating (if I understand him correctly) as level a playing field as it is possible to maintain, cultural differences being what they are. His position is that all men are created equal (sound familiar?), and SHOULD be equal in the eyes of the law. Absolutely no Official Favoritism Or Discrimination instituted in favor of or against anyone. That once it becomes government policy to show favoritism to preferred groups, *no matter how justified this preference seems to some people*, we are heading onto dangerously thin ice. Passing laws that make some people more equal than others is an EVIL precedent, now matter how big-hearted it seems at the time.

Quote
There is a book called the 'Audit of war' which takes a pretty hard-edged view of the *Marshall Plan* and the relative position of the USA (and the UK)  and it's allies after the 2nd World war. I don't agree with it - but there's some interesting analysis there.

Thanks, I'll see if I can find it. And parenthetically, please spell out your contractions for a while. "It's" expands to IT IS. Saying "and it is allies" would highlight your error immediately. But I've seem some pretty cogent analyses that the LACK of any such plan after the Great War (WWI) left Germany in really terrible straits economically, and that Hitler leveraged the Weimar experience. Historical analysis always illustrates that hindsight is never 20-20.

Quote
Sweden and the USA were economies that benefited enormously from 'war' at that time for example - without physical damage to their infrastructure.

I've read studies (no less biased, no more) that conclude that war is ALWAYS bad for EVERYONE, even the winners (but less so). Of course, this analysis tends to beg the question of whether the Great Depression would have ended otherwise. But the general gist is that destroying stuff is bad, and redirecting productivity into making stuff to destroy stuff is also bad, even if SOME people profit in the process.

Quote
The UK largely gave up all the capital (of any kind) it had for it's own survival.

No, the UK was still viable after the war (and again, spell it out! The UK gave up capital for IT IS own survival? See the problem?)

Quote
when Paley recovers...then I'd be interested in what he has to say....? But I fully expect to be dissappointed.

The problem with your full expectations are, they are self-fulfilling. I can't imagine anything Ghost could possibly say that you wouldn't take exception to, because you know that he's a horrible person and you know that you aren't!

I've found him on this thread to be taking politically conservative/libertarian positions that I find entirely rational. I'm much more confident that he and I could come to an agreement over optimal government policy toward "disadvantaged" cultural groups, than I could ever find with you. On the other hand, I've found his approach to evolution falls into the "roped-off area" I've mentioned elsewhere, where his religious faith simply disables his ability to SEE what doesn't fit his requirements. And I hope you can agree that in his reflexive and involuntary rejection of science, he's at least making an effort. He knows that evolution CANNOT be right, period, no remaining ability to even wonder about this.

And given this handicap, I personally have to admire his perseverence. Kind of like someone missing both legs and confined to a wheelchair, *refusing* to admit legs exist, and *desperate* to find some compatible explanation for how everyone else walks around. Clearly, he has studied legs in great detail in an effort to track down just what makes them impossible (since they can't be possible, and this is NOT subject to question). Some of his rationalizations and misdirections are surprisingly creative (if a bit, uh, precious). But (to paraphrase Conan Doyle) when the obvious cannot be countenanced, the circuitous, however gnarly, must be the case.

So what I'm trying to tell you is, religion does not cripple the mind in every area, and lack of religion does not bestow upon reality the requirement that it kowtow to emotional urges.

Date: 2006/01/20 14:33:10, Link
Author: Flint
stevestory:

Quote
I don't know what you're talking about. He did in fact announce that anyone from Panda's Thumb was banned.

Where? I haven't seen this announcement. I think you are making this up.

Date: 2006/01/20 15:46:54, Link
Author: Flint
Savagemutt:

I think you're on the right track. Heddle is a Believer. There are certain areas that are simply not subject to evaluation. He knows this in an instinctive way. I don't think he's deliberately obscure, I think that his knowledge is doing battle with his, well, brainwashing seems a harsh term but I can't think of anything more descriptive.

So it works out the way it often does against this sort of belief system. We are here because we HAVE to be, doctrine permits nothing less. We must work backwards to determine why this must be so. At some point the *underlying assumptions* are arbitrary, and Heddle realizes that. But he also knows that his underlying assumptions are REQUIRED, his faith tells him so. Therefore they must be "scientific" in the sense that science describes the Real World.

So I don't read him as two-faced at all. He KNOWS God intended him. He knows that evolution is internally consistent, and consistent with the evidence. He basically understands the evidence. He knows God must have intended this. He knows that any interpretation of the evidence that does not *require* his existence must be wrong. He understands that evolution does NOT require his existence, but otherwise it's rock-solid. What to do, what to do?

I really feel kind of sorry for Heddle. He's both intelligent enough and educated enough to understand the relevant aspects of reality, but his mind was turned at too early an age to recover. What got wired into his brain early, can't be 100% reconciled with what got educated into his brain later. Neither can be discarded, but the two cannot possibly be honestly reconciled. It's kind of interesting to watch this play out.

Date: 2006/01/20 15:59:11, Link
Author: Flint
stevestory:

No, why would I kid you?

What DaveScot SAID was "You (fill in the blank. Jack Krebs?) have posted on PT, PT banned me, therefore you can't post here."

But this is a rationalization for banning JACK KREBS. Nothing more, nothing less. This most emphatically does NOT apply to anyone who has ever posted on PT, it applies to Jack Krebs, because DaveScot doesn't wish to deal with Jack. Do you seriously think that DaveScot would ban GhostOfPaley, or Larry Farfaroutman, or David Heddle, or ANY of the periodic creationists, just because they post to Panda's Thumb?

You have to realize that DaveScot *ignores* anything that smacks of integrity. His "reasons" for doing ANYTHING are because he bleeping well feels like it at the time, and nothing else. He is ruled by emotion and mood. Tomorrow Jack Krebs may try again, and DaveScot may very well permit this.

And when he's not in the mood, his excuses are completely ad hoc. Every day is a new day to a goose. These people are NOT RATIONAL.

Date: 2006/01/21 08:21:08, Link
Author: Flint
Maybe education is the key here. The cycle of blacks living in poor inner-city communities, going to schools that teach almost nothing, dropping out capable of very little useful knowledge or skill, needs to be broken somewhere. The problem may lie in the local funding of schools, which tends to be hard on poor communities.

Where I live in Alabama is kind of an enclave, a city of engineers. Engineers value education very highly, and voted themselves (relatively) high local taxes to fund a really excellent school system. But other localities chose not to fund their schools, and the courts found the difference between best and worst funded schools too broad. So naturally, the state legislature decided to take the funding voted locally AWAY from those localities to subsidize those who didn't feel like paying (most of whom could pay, but didn't want to). This of course made things difficult for our local schools, so the county tried to raise school taxes again to make up the shortfall.

And this time, the voters said "We're willing to fund excellent schools for our own children. If other communities want good schools, they can pay for it." So the local schools here are deteriorating. If we pay higher taxes, the state will take the money away anyway.

So there's a problem. Busing has been tried, the idea being that if children of wealthier people are obligated to attend inner-city schools, they'll be willing to fund those schools. At least here, busing was so unpopular that there are NO school buses in my community at all. Not for anybody.

What makes a tilted playing field, even now, is that those who go through the de facto segregated school systems, for the most part, simply can't compete. I think Ghost is correct, like it or not, that the way to make such systems competitive is for those effectively restricted to them to by golly FIX them. Ghost is correct: when the Jews have been sent to the second-class institutions, they haven't subsided into resentful indifference, they have transformed what they've been handed into something excellent. Every time.

I don't know the answer. It seems pretty clear that whenever anyone lends a helping hand, whoever they lend it to reorganizes their life so they can't live without it. Which means that helping hands need strings attached and time limits. Saying this hand should be a safety net and not a lifestyle sounds great, but in practice anything that provides real safety, provides enough to live on. So a safety net isn't an amount of help, it's got to be temporary and narrowly focused. Yeah, we'll help *provided* you use that help to get on you feet, get a job, get an education. It is NOT your money; you don't get to decide how to spend it.

Date: 2006/01/21 17:46:39, Link
Author: Flint
I've noticed a real desire on the part of reasonable people for science to find God (their version). After all, people know that science does really neat stuff and learns a lot, investigates nearly everything, produces useful technology, etc. And they know that God (their version) is perfectly real, clear and present. So WHY can't science find Him?

This makes for an audience very willing and eager to believe a claim that science HAS found God (their version). Combine this with the fact that for the most part, this audience has little clue what science is or how it works. There's a lot of force available in telling people what they dearly wish to hear, who aren't equipped to evaluate these claims.

I suspect Casey feels as most such Believers do, that if ordinary atheistic science can do such wonderful stuff, imagine what full-buckwheat Christian science can do! After all, Christian scientists have TheBigGuy in their hearts, leading them in the right direction and telling them the answers.

Date: 2006/01/22 13:52:50, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Presumably either God altered their genes to extend their lifespan, or altered ours to shorten it.

Other possibilities suggest themselves.

Date: 2006/01/23 04:02:36, Link
Author: Flint
Heddle:

Quote
If you see no difference between the positions: (1) There are no miracles, and  (2) Miracles aside, the bible is inconsistent with science, then we have nothing to talk about. I’ll only debate the second position.

I'm not sure I understand this. Are you taking the position that there ARE miracles? I can certainly understand that there's no room for debate between those who believe in miracles and those who want actual evidence. Evidence is *always* the sticking point.

But maybe you're saying that what you wish to discuss is whether the bible is consistent with science except for the miracles? Seems to me this would reduce down to a rather uninteresting exercise. Take each statement from the bible. If there is scientific support, then the bible is scientific. If there is not, then it's a miracle and you don't discuss those!

I agree that one doesn't Believe on the evidence, nor is Believing a rational or conscious choice. Once evidence enters the Temple of Mental Defense, it has impressively corrosive effects.

Date: 2006/01/23 04:06:45, Link
Author: Flint
haceaton:

Are you more concerned that the name would trigger fundamentalist zeal, or simply that the name is unusual? If the latter, I can tell you that I have a given name you don't encounter very often (Flint, oddly enough), and it's never been the slightest problem.

Date: 2006/01/23 06:08:44, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
And you say the same thing -- 'that's a miracle, it doesn't count. Why can't you understand this?'

Step 1: The bible is always inerrant.
Step 2: Where the bible is wrong, see step 1.

Date: 2006/01/23 07:57:59, Link
Author: Flint
stevestory:

Quote
could never find life as grim and worthless as some of these religious people, that's for sure.

If you read carefully, you'll notice that life is grim and worthless only for YOU , and only in THEIR opinion. They themselves, doing exactly the same acts but armed with "right" irrational beliefs, are uplifted instead, in their opinion.

Back to a question I asked earlier: Has anyone here every known anyone's god to answer his prayers by telling him his opinions are incorrect?

Date: 2006/01/23 08:01:48, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I can answer your question to your satisfaction: Ancient Latin and Greek are much too complex to have happened naturally. God must have bequeathed them to those who Believed, who were able to spread them because they were superior people, as are all God's chosen people.

Did I get it right?

Date: 2006/01/23 09:06:17, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I would contend that the people you a reffering to are confused between the words "God" and "Bible".

Not quite. It's between God and a particularly ignorant and perverse sectarian interpretation of carefully selected *parts* of the bible. After all, what's being directly positioned as infallible isn't scripture, only a very fallible human interpretation of it, on the part of people apparently incapable of considering themselves fallible.

Date: 2006/01/23 09:50:37, Link
Author: Flint
You first name is really Arden? In my life I have met one other Flint. I've never met an Arden.

Date: 2006/01/23 11:17:19, Link
Author: Flint
I lack the imagination to make up a kewl name like yours, so long ago I resigned myself to the unimaginative use of my own name. Besides, it helps me remember which posts I wrote...

Date: 2006/01/23 12:02:06, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
It's really easy to write down that Noah lived for 600 years, but is there any more circumstantial evidence written in his (or anyone else's) story that makes the claim more believable? In other words, if multiple people live for multiple centuries, I would expect there to some dramatic differences in the number of children they had compared to us, like, say, 10 times the number of our typical offspring.

I'm not a biblical scholar either. But if a generation was still about 20 years (and isn't the 6000-year age based on that length of generation), then Methuselah and Noah and those others who lived many centures, would have been around doing bible-worthy stuff during the lifetimes of 30-40 generations. That's a LOT of generations hanging with the same (extremely famous) old geezers. If Noah was young when Methuselah died, we're looking at one of these two characters being alive every moment from Abraham right up through Jesus. Surely they must have been playing some continuous role, worth of some mention, even offhand?

So Kind of surprising that in all the tales of Saul and David and Solomon (the late Bronze age or early Iron age?), Noah was not even referred to in any way. Do you suppose some later redactor went through and removed ALL references to ALL these long-lived characters once they'd outlived a usefulness that never lasted more than an ordinary 40-year lifetime would have required?

Also, notice that the Egyptians made regular forays through the holy lands smacking down the local yokels and confiscating whatever they might have of value. Wouldn't the Egyptions have been curious about people who were busy living an order of magnitude longer than they were? If I were pharoah, I'd sure want to know how that worked. None of them mentioned it. Stranger and stranger...

Date: 2006/01/24 03:35:37, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I believe the ID movement is basically split into two parts. Those people who want to use ID as part of a social/political or personal/profit agenda and are therefore looking for ways to make ID more "palatable" to evolutionists by pretending it's not about God, and those who simply are disgusted with the scientific fraud that is evolutionary theory and who have no social or political or personal agenda in their support of ID.

Sounds very simple, but by observation it doesn't work that way. ALL anti-evolution people, as far as I can tell, find the fact of evolution (as opposed to the proposed mechanisms by which it works) an intolerable affront to their pride. Kind of like overweight people rejecting gravity as a scientific fraud because the alternative is to admit what they really don't want to.

Among the fact-rejecting crowd, the associated motivations seem fairly spread around, not binomial as Zardoz argues. Some are trying to trick a pro-reality system into teaching superstition in science class because they Believe, and want everyone else to. Others consider this dishonest, and instead want to preach against reality on straight religious grounds. Some wish to attain political power sufficient to use civil authority to *coerce* behavior according to their faith. Others are convinced that simply abandoning rationality will be sufficient to guide behavior. Some seek to discover their god hiding somewhere in reality by searching for places where He screwed up and failed to cover His tracks. Others reject this in favor of seeing the Hand Of God guiding every...well, they all have different levels of granularity on this. A few even seem to believe that predictable, natural processes are themselves guided, while others recognize that if this is true, layering on some Guider is superfluous and clumsy.

Essentially, what Zardoz is preaching here is PURE blindness, and he's offended that people like DaveScot give the impression of peeking every now and then. Peeking is a giveaway of confusion. REAL Believers don't do it.

Date: 2006/01/24 10:54:09, Link
Author: Flint
Zardoz:

I guess what I wrote passed by you. Communication isn't always easy about this stuff.

Quote
For myself and my friends who hold the same views as me on evolution we simply find evolutionary theory too implausible, nothing emotional about it.

Well, I always consider this sort of reply to be hilariously dishonest, though probably more with yourself than with anyone else. Any explanation of any body of evidence doesn't sound implausible in a vacuum, it always sounds implausible compared to something that sounds MORE plausible. That's the only way it can possibly work. For example, you may find the notion of someone flying by flapping his arms implausible, but only by comparison to known information on this subject.

So I guess we need to dig into WHY you find it implausible. Plausibility is a comparative term, and the "compared to what" must be specified. Otherwise, we are reduced to guessing that you find it implausible in comparison to magic, but you're pretending otherwise.

Quote
What do you mean? (about DaveScot peeking)

I mean, he is actually looking (sometimes, not too hard, but still looking) at actual evidence. And evolutionary theory in the context of evidence is not only plausible, it's stone cold obvious. Shame on DaveScot for letting the nose of evidence into the Big Tent.

Quote
But if we go all the way back to the very first life on urth we are confronted with no less of a magical event if you postulate that matter self organized into a cell that was programmed to replicate.

Why do you say this? The origin of life from nonliving organic molecules is higly active, lots of experiments are being done, a great deal is being learned. And while there are highly competitive schools of thought, none of them would dream of suggesting that a living cell happened all at once. We're looking at tens to hundreds of millions of years, with thousands of steps along the way to what we might generously call a protocell today.

Your statement seems to ignore both the processes involved, and the time available. Kind of looking at a modern fighter jet and assuming that it has no aircraft history.

Quote
Also is it really plausible that evolutionary theory can account for the percentage of artistic precision, color coordination, and symmetrically beautiful shapes found in nature? Almost every life form that we can see with our unaided eye is confounding chance by being artistically phenomenal

Sheesh. And isn't it a marvel that smoke rises from a fire, rather than forming a fist and smacking you upside the head? Wowie zowie! Ooooh. By the way, have you ever looked at your hand? I mean, REALLY looked at it? Can I have another hit?

Quote
Why isn't the overwhelming attribute of the living world utilitarian and drab?

Other self-appointed art critics see exactly that. How mundane the world is, they say. How boring and uninteresting and dull. I suppose you'll claim that those who see the world the way you do are commenting on the world, those who see it differently are only commenting on themselves. Convenient, I guess.

Date: 2006/01/24 13:52:37, Link
Author: Flint
Zardoz:

You come so close, yet you keep bouncing off.

Quote
I cannot accept that chaotic disorganized mutations can produce the vast diversity and stunning technological complexity of life as we know it.

But of course, what we see wasn't *produced* by "disorganized mutations", any more than it was produced by the atoms and elements of which they're composed. What produces things is a *feedback PROCESS*. The mutations are only part of the raw materials that the process uses.

Quote
You may argue that random mutation plus natural selection somehow rises above chaos, but I don't buy it.

Selection is a process. Here's an offhand analogy: Imagine that you need to know how to pronounce a word. You consult a dictionary, and in a minute or two find the word and learn the pronunciation. Now I come along and say "Wait a minute. There are 500,000 words in that dictionary. NO WAY you could have found just the one you were looking for in only a minute or two."

You might respond: Aha, I had a process. As it happens, the words are in a special order, and I happen to know that order. And because this process reduces the scope of the task by several orders of magnitude, it was entirely manageable.

To which I respond: You might make the fatuous CLAIM that your method somehow rises above just guessing and faking that you found the word that fast, but I'm not buying it.

And what can you say? Are you going to concede that my ignorance is more plausible than your knowledge, and admit you were faking? If I repeat "Nope, I just don't buy it" enough times, are you going to start doubting how dictionaries work?

Quote
The numerical probability is beyond astronomical that a series of random mutations can design a Lion or a rose bush

Because, again, the mutations don't design anything. The process of SELECTION designs things. You ALMOST noticed selection, but just couldn't quite clear that hurdle. The idea of the words in the dictionary being in some knowable order just isn't plausible to you.

Quote
Nope, sorry. For me Occam's Razor rules out evolution because life as we know it would require millions of miracles happening on a scale beyond imagining, whereas a designer would only require one miracle.


Nope, sorry, For me, the idea that you could find one word out of 500,000 in a minute requires a miracle on a scale beyond imagining. You must have been lying. This whole idea of method and process is something I simply can't accept. MAGIC, now, that's simple. And what makes it simple is that there's no method or process at all. You just SAY it's true and POOF it's true. Things are so much easier when you just get to make them up.

Date: 2006/01/24 14:00:12, Link
Author: Flint
djmullen:

I already provided a link to an *entire book* about abiogenesis. I like to do that because it helps separate out the flavor of creationist we're talking about. If Zardoz continues to ignore the link, we'll have a certain species identified: those who defend incorrect claims simply by remaining ignorant of the refutations.

Date: 2006/01/25 03:03:35, Link
Author: Flint
I love this particular example of a homonym:

Quote
I was given free reign

The *usual* form is "free rein", meaning the horse isn't being reined in, and is allowed to run free (without reins). DaveScot's use implies that he is absolute soverign (reigning), without any restriction - most especially including the restrictions good judgment would impose.

Do you suppose he used this homonym deliberately?

Date: 2006/01/25 03:07:48, Link
Author: Flint
I think he's saying something much simpler:
liberal=evil
disagrees with me=evil
therefore, disagrees with me=liberal

Oh yes, I guess Muslims are also evil.

Date: 2006/01/25 15:43:25, Link
Author: Flint
Zardoz:

Quote
There are hundreds of scientists, many who are biologists in fields of work related to evolution who reject evolution. So your argument would be the fallacy of hasty generalization.

I'd be really curious about the basis for this statement. After all, the DI can only find 400 total people willing to sign their statement, very very few of whom are biologists. And the statement they signed, far from rejecting evolution, actually says they are skeptical that natural selection explains all there is about evolution. But minus the (pretty obvious) political intent, nearly ANY biologist would sign such a statement. After all, it's commonly recognized that natural selection is NOT the only mechanism of evolution.

Note please that the statement *admits* evolution; it only expresses skepticism that one single mechanism is the sole mechanism.

Now, here you have "hundreds of scientists, MANY of them biologists" who REJECT evolution. Where'd you get them? The DI would very much love to hear from you!

And if you can NOT produce them, if you are just making this claim out of whole cloth, your argument has no merit.

Quote
You can call it a theory with religious implications.

Only in the vernacular use of "theory" to mean "wild guess, baseless hunch, or mindless preference." It is NOT a theory in the scientific sense of being based on a solid body of evidence, making falsifiable predictions which have been well-tested (and honed as those falsifiable predictions have failed to pan out). In the scientific sense, ID has no theoretical basis whatsoever; it says nothing except "I refuse to accept that a feedback process operating over 4 billion years can produce what we see. I refuse! I refuse! So there!"

Quote
There is no direct empirical evidence as of yet. But that doesn't mean that it is not true.

You may not wish to lean too heavily on this argument - the Flying Spaghetti Monster may take offense!

It's generally considered rational to presume the absence of anything for which no evidence exists, and that those making positive claims (that something exist) use actual evidence in support, rather than simply saying "you can't prove me wrong."

I eagerly await your source of hundreds of biologists who reject evolution. PLEASE let us know, OK?

Date: 2006/01/25 15:51:46, Link
Author: Flint
Stephen Elliott:

I'd go one step further. All ID needs for absolute proof of God is to ALLEGE one hole in evolution, *provided* enough people can be persuaded to believe it.

Date: 2006/01/25 15:57:23, Link
Author: Flint
I strongly doubt that such a comparison would be very meaningful. Sure, it would indicate that mammals are related to one another in some ways. But I think that the statement that humans and chimpanzees are 99% identical is misleading. It only takes a couple of differences, especially in development, to make truly major differences in the morphology and entire behavioral pattern of the organism.

On the other hand, maybe some of our creationists, for whom macroevolution is impossible, might be interested in how apparently macro some truly micro genetic differences might lead to.

Didn't I read somewhere that humans have a 40% genetic overlap with snap beans?

Date: 2006/01/26 08:03:25, Link
Author: Flint
The creationists who hang around (we get drive-bys as well) tend to be a pretty good filter for the quality of our questions and responses. My informal scale is like this:

1) If your question or response is particularly cogent and well-expressed, the creationist will totally ignore your post.

2) If you phrased your question/response in any way that can be misconstrued, the creationist will do so in his response.

3) If you got off-topic in some way that the creationist can babble along with no need of knowledge, he'll produce a long meaningless response, usually changing the subject.

On the rare occasions when a majority of the posters join in asking the same good question, so that the creationist can only change the subject, he soon gives up and so do I. Nobody has any more to learn.

Date: 2006/01/26 13:27:50, Link
Author: Flint
Mr. Christopher:

I've puzzled for a couple three years now over what 'irreducible complexity' might mean.

First, people said you'd expect the standard definition ("all parts required") to describe a pretty sizeable precentage of organisms, since nature always seems to find some functional application of any useful redundency. Behe said that didn't count; somehow just because an organism can't survive without all its parts doesn't make it IC (whatever that might mean).

Next, people pointed out the 'scaffolding' process by which structures no longer necessary for a changed lifestyle are discarded. Parasites were common examples. Behe said that didn't count, he was talking about someting evolving by adding and not losing stuff.

Next, people pointed out what Gould (and Judge Jones) called exaptation - the adaptation of some structure to another use. Behe said that didn't count, he was talking about adding structures without changing their application.

Next, people pointed out that the same function is performed in different organisms by less complex structures. Behe said that didn't count, those were *different* IC systems.

Next, people pointed out that the same function is performed in very similar organisms by essentially the same system, but still lacking one or more parts. Behe said that didn't count, by redefining what a 'part' is. It could be anything from an organ down to an amino acid, whatever Behe decided the system couldn't work without.

Next, people pointed out that we have enough historical data to show how Behe's IC systems actually evolved. Behe said that didn't count unless you could produce hard evidence of every molecular change leading to his selected structures, for every ancestor back to the original life.

Apparently, Behe's model of evolution is that there's a vast inventory of existing "parts" out there, available to be bolted on as though evolution worked like making widgets on an assembly line. In fact, the assembly-line model is the ONLY model Behe will allow. Removing parts not allowed, morphing parts not allowed, functional change not allowed, lifestyle change not allowed, even direct refutations based on what IS allowed are not allowed!

So we finally reach the end of the road: for Behe, IC systems are systems that could not have evolved according to the only evolutionary path he is willing to recognize, which just happens to be a path evolution does not follow because it's not possible. All other paths are ruled out.

Date: 2006/01/26 14:08:18, Link
Author: Flint
Caledonian:

Quote
But according to DaveScot's own beliefs, HIV is too complex to have arisen spontaneously.

Nope. You fail the course in ID logic. Here's the right answer: HIV *has* arisen spontaneously. Therefore it's microevolution. Therefore, it's allowed.

Date: 2006/01/26 15:09:15, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
How could mere microevolution change a virus which infects one species to a virus that infects another?

It did, therefore it could, therefore it's microevolution.

Quote
And HIV itself - well, no mere human mind could ever design such a powerful tool of genocide

Speculation about the nature of the designer isn't permitted.

See, the problem is, you are expecting creationists' biological claims to be *scientifically consistent* rather than psychologically consistent. Psychological consistancy means, *always* accept or reject according to what feels right today. What felt right yesterday is no longer operative.

Date: 2006/01/26 15:14:41, Link
Author: Flint
As a lifelong victim of dictionary-think, I have terrible problems mastering even elementary misspellish. So tell me: is a programme the opposite of a programyou?

Date: 2006/01/31 05:57:38, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

This was finally explained to me, because I couldn't understand what Ghost was trying to say either.

Nobody is contending that phylogenetic trees are easy to construct or not subject to dispute. There is a great deal of controversy.

What Ghost is saying is, at the cutting edge of science, you would expect this sort of debate - very few of the results have come in yet, and those that have come in aren't particularly reliable, so there's lots of scope for debate.

Ghost's point is that over the last decade or so, a very large amount of additional results have become available, adding a wealth of genetic and molecular analysis evidence to the existing morphological evidence. And yet these trees are NO CLOSER to resolved than they were before. Which lineages are included in the sample change the apparent relationships among other lineages. Different analytical techniques using the same data produce very different trees.

Ghost's argument is that when a wealth of additional information becomes available, and when that information is a great deal more reliable, and we STILL can't build trees any more robust than ever, maybe the problem is that our assumption of trees is wrong in the first place. We can't produce good reliable trees because there are no trees to produce - the data stubbornly refuse to fit our wrong assumption.

To which two counter-arguments have been presented over at PT. First, that there has indeed been a trend toward a solid consensus as more information comes in; the tree model seems to be working just fine. And second, that EVEN IF the tree model is wrong, this lends absolutely no positive support to the 'poof' model.

Ghost has at this point been reduced to claiming the consensus as to phylogenetic trees isn't very solid, and for the good reason that God didn't do it that way. Instead, God created 'kinds' that have been generally milling around their Platonic centers. And therefore attempts to find that one 'kind' evolved out of another is doomed to the kinds of problems cladists are suffering; they're looking for what didn't happen.

Now, if only we'd read the freepin' BIBLE, we'd have known this all along and saved ourselves all this confusion and heartburn.

Date: 2006/02/02 06:11:58, Link
Author: Flint
The key difference here is, engineering doesn't necessarily rub your face in the relevant biological evidence. So it's not only easy, it's typical for a suitably interested creationist to survive even an advanced engineering degree program without slamming into any unavoidable conflicts with his faith. Biology programs tend to weed out creationists, few of whom are able to make the 'Kurt Wise breakthrough'.

Kurt Wise has understood that to maintain his faith, he must internalize the conviction that evidence simply *does not matter*. It is irrelevant. Most creationist engineers, on the contrary, recognize the importance of evidence, and thus the importance of MAKING the evidence fit the conclusions. The evidence MUST support their faith, because their faith is RIGHT. When evidence refutes their faith, see rule 1.

What's interesting is that, at least in my experience, these people are otherwise excellent at recognizing which evidence is relevant, how to draw conclusions from it, and how to reject conclusions the evidence denies. But when their religious faith is involved, it's like a blind spot. Suddenly you're through the looking glass, where conclusions are *not to be questioned* and evidence falls into three categories: it fits, it gets distorted to fit, or it gets denied. A spooky experience.

Date: 2006/02/04 10:28:25, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
All the IDist should be worrying about is producing better evidence.

I don't think this is how it works. There is no evidence indicating ID, and there never will be. And the cdesign proponentsists know this perfectly well.

Quote
I encourage the ID scientists to continue their work.

Are you kidding? Their work is entirely political. You don't think any of the DI's $4 million/year budget was spent on *test tubes* do you?

Date: 2006/02/05 09:33:28, Link
Author: Flint
Although the error can be more subtle than might appear on the surface. Granted that DaveScot being a dunce doesn't directly refute any particular claim he makes. However, the knowledge that someone is a hardcore involuntary creationist DOES influence how his statements might be interpreted in a general sense.

And in DaveScot's world, calling someone an idiot is 'ad hominem' ONLY when DaveScot agrees with the idiot. When DaveScot agrees with the name-caller, then of course the idiot label is an objective fact-based observation.

I wonder how he'd respond to the statement that "you're dumber than manure and you're lucky you look better with your head up your ass, BUT in this particular case you happen to be right"?

Date: 2006/02/05 13:18:15, Link
Author: Flint
avocationist:

If by "big Bang" you mean nothing more than that the universe as we know it had a beginning, then I doubt you'll find anyone seriously doubting this.

On the other hand, if you mean the scientific theory as supported by the available evidence, including stuff like a 15-billion-year-old universe, inflation during planck time, cosmic background radiation, and cosmological type stuff like that, you find *lots* of religious objection. After all, the Big Bang theory has nothing resembling 7 days of supernatural creation.

Date: 2006/02/06 11:35:02, Link
Author: Flint
avocationist:

Quote
But natural selection is a completely passive form of intelligence.

Agreed.
Quote
And random mutation is not even a passive form of intelligence.

Yes, but it is not represented as one. Mutations are the food selection consumes.

Quote
I think both are inadequate to their tasks.
They work together. Food won't contribute to your growth unless you eat it. So the eater is required. But if you have no food, your capability to grow won't be realized. So the food is required. It's a tandem process.

So you're right, neither *by itself* is adequate to the task.

Quote
I don't care if your fairy godmother waves her wand and a coach and six appear. If she did it, it was within the laws of nature. We must figure out how it was done.

Yes, exactly so. In practice, 'supernatural' seems to have two meanings. As an explanation, it means "I don't understand how this works, but I can't bring myself to admit ignorance." As a pacifier, it means "anything you want for which there is no evidence (or for which the very real evidence is something you can successfully ignore) is *really true*, because nobody can prove me wrong."

Quote
By this type of definition of supernatural, we have already entered the realm of supernatural beinghood as compared to ourselves millenia ago, or even hundreds of years ago.

My reading of scripture is exactly thus. Stuff happened. Nobody understood it. Nobody admitted igorance. Instead, they made up gods and magical forces. They lived in a "demon haunted world" full of spirits and miracles, omens and portents, deep mystical purposes imposed by forces beyond our ken.

To manipulate their environment (and what is more human?) under these conditions, they projected gods as being like super-people, able to leap tall buildings, or at least control weather and confer immortality, all while remaining invisible. But because the gods WERE human, despite all these magical powers, we could manipulate nature by manipulating the gods. And even then, humans were highly skilled at manipulating other humans - through flattery (prayer), bribes (sacrifices), and deals (I'll worship you if you rain on my crops).

Today, this doesn't work anymore. Now we believe we actually need to *understand* stuff. And some of the stuff is pretty complicated. What a headache.

Date: 2006/02/06 15:35:24, Link
Author: Flint
avocationist:

Actually, as Jones understood perfectly well and pointed out directly, by the time Behe was forced on cross-examination to explain what IC was NOT, IC could no longer be proven wrong because it no longer made any coherent claims! Let's see...scaffolding doesn't count, exaptation doesn't count, a change in lifestyle doesn't count, organisms whose systems work just fine although missing 'essential' pieces don't count...well, what DOES count anymore?

As Judge Jones couldn't help but notice, NOTHING counted anymore. How can anyone 'prove wrong' a claim that a certain structure couldn't possibly evolve EXCEPT by all the different ways it COULD have evolved, which Behe disallows as "not what he meant"?

Jones DID answer Behe's points. Fully and directly. And by the time he was done, Behe didn't have any points at all anymore. Behe stomped on his dick bigtime. And as others are pointing out, science requires that one admit error, religion requires that one NEVER admit error. Now, which one is Behe? How many guesses do you need?

IC wasn't 'refuted', it was whittled away until nothing was left. Which is what happens to something based on NO theory, NO hypotheses, NO research, NO evidence. Nothing but pure religious faith. Jones points out with some humor that having been stripped of all but his simple faith, Behe was left sitting on the stand saying "I say it's science, I believe it, that settles it!"

Date: 2006/02/07 03:42:39, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Is this Christian Intelligent Design advocate a liar or just ignorant on a wholesale level?

Why do these need to be mutually exclusive?

Date: 2006/02/07 05:52:45, Link
Author: Flint
After multiple aborted attempts over 35 years, I finally figured out the secret to quitting for good:

Suffer.

I haven't had any for 5 1/2 years now. The craving never goes away. Patches don't help. If you used to enjoy stuff where you really needed a cigarette, you have to quit doing that stuff. If it was your job, you must find a new job. Otherwise, you just start back up again.

It also helps me that my wife (whom I married at least partially because she was a smoker!;) quit, and went on a big health kick, and made (and still would make) my life #### on earth if I started again. And I know without any doubt that if she died, I'd pick up a carton on the way to the funeral home. If I were a religious man, I'd pray each night that she start smoking again, so I could.

Date: 2006/02/07 08:12:07, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
So, I ask you what is it about evolution that is more atheistic than any other field of science?

This is just another case of kicking someone in the shins, and complaining that they hurt your toe!

The relevance of religion to *anything* is entirely a function of the doctrine that religion espouses. If some religion were to teach the nonexistence of rabbits, then rabbits would become religious objects in the context of that religion. Indeed, rabbits would become infidels and heretics, and the religion may organize fanatical rabbit-hunts to exterminate what they claim doesn't exist in the first place. What could possibly be more religious than that?

Doctrine trumps evidence every time.

Date: 2006/02/07 11:46:38, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
One side says a massless timeless entity caused life. The other side says massless and timeless particles did it.
And one side uses evidence, while the other uses wishful thinking. Like the relationship between a pre-frontal lobotomy, and a free bottle in front of me. Uncanny, just uncanny.

Date: 2006/02/07 11:54:00, Link
Author: Flint
avocationist:

Quote
Darwinist evolution from the beginning was an attempt to get away from superstition and unexamined a priori acceptance of revealed scripture, yes, but it was also an attempt to do away with a need for God altogether, and the repugnance of the Christian God was a major emotional motivation.


Arrant nonsense, totally wrongheaded. Darwin attempted to *explain evidence*. He wasn't motivated by any imaginary repugnance or attempt to replace scripture, he was motivated by finding an explanation for what he observed. YOU are the one projecting gods where they don't belong and have no business.

This is an error probably everyone here is quite thorougly sick of -- that people who respect evidence are somehow "deliberately rejecting god", pure projection on the part of the godballs. Aren't you going to pray for us now?

Now, you could probably make a good case that the reason Darwin was able to produce something new, was because religious blinders had prevented otherwise intelligent people from noticing the obvious for *centuries*. Religion does that to people.

Date: 2006/02/08 08:16:04, Link
Author: Flint
I admit I'm not getting any sense of the political viability of this ploy. After all, people drop bills into the hopper all the time that have zero chance of ever being reported out of committee. They do this so that they can then wave their bill in the faces of their constituents and get re-elected.

I learned early on to ask "who wants this?" If the answer is, the speaker of the house, or some well-funded influential lobby group, then it's real. Otherwise, like 99% of what gets dropped in the hopper, it's campaign fodder only.

So who in the Wisconsin political machinery wants this?

Date: 2006/02/08 09:59:45, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
What I have read are things like the Meyer paper and the critique of it and the answers to the critique. I've read Miller's paper about the Flagellum and Dembski's answers to that. From these (and more) I get the impression the ID is way out in the lead.

Unfortunately, this claim is all too credible. It illustrates how well these charlatans are at beguiling those who (1) Lack any proper knowledge or background in the matter, and (2) Are predisposed to WANT to hear pleasingly simpleminded nonsense for whatever reason.

Let's face it, avocationist represents the overwhelming majority of the IDiots' potential (and target) audience. They have not said ONE THING that can stand up to examination, but the only possible venue where they can be obliged to sit still for genuine examination is in courtrooms - where they are invariably made to look like the liars they are. Otherwise, what they say sure looks good to those who will forever be incompetent to examine anything of the sort.

If only science worked by making good impressions and didn't need any actual evidence, ID would be a clear winner. Unless, of course, we actually want anything to WORK.

Date: 2006/02/09 11:34:05, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
So, if a person with a Ph.D. in, say, molecular biology, someone with a presumably and apparently high IQ and who is not a fundamentalist with some pre-existing serious impediment to understanding evolution still so often fails to understand it, then evolution theory must be very, very hard to really grasp.


Is there such a person? I think there was an ARN thread some while back where the ID proponents were asked to name ANYONE who was familiar with evolutionary theory, had no religious convictions against it, but still denied the basic principles. I don't think anyone could come up with a single person.

A couple of people (NOT necessarily scientists, mind you, just people who knew the concepts of evolution) were suggested, but a little digging into their writing showed that their objections were basic religious rejection even if they didn't shout "praise Jeezus" while they rejected.

Finally, anyone interested in facts and evidence ended up agreeing: Evolution is NOT what the evolution-deniers find hard to grasp. Their own religion-based fundamental *unwillingness to accept it* was what they found impossible to overcome.

Ultimately, this is because the ONLY reason anyone rejects ANY explanation of anything, is because they find some other explanation more appealing. Since evolution is based on evidence, and has been thoroughly vetted by tens of thousands of professionals for 150 years, rejection implies some other explanation whose appeal is beyond question. Only religion qualifies.

Date: 2006/02/09 14:20:02, Link
Author: Flint
If I understand the Christian fundamentalist perspective at all, the presumption is that anything that fails to promote their religion, is actively engaged (by dint of that very failure) in disputing their religion. If you're not for us, you are against us.

No scientific theory ever has or ever can require anything supernatural. If something is observed, the mechanisms for which nobody has the slightest clue about, the best science can do is admit bone ignorance (and start investigating). If there ARE magical forces undetectable in principle, science must forever remain baffled.

Accordingly, religious convictions cannot contribute anything to our knowledge of the objective universe. We might layer them on anyway (evolution happens by known means *and God exists*) but we aren't adding any explanatory power, we're simply not discarding irrelevant (except for their feel-good characteristics) preferences.

And I think the Devout sense this. In science, their faith is irrelevant. *No matter what* they believe, it's irrelevant. Sure, it's allowed. So what?

Date: 2006/02/14 06:08:21, Link
Author: Flint
Carol:

Quote
Well Paul, here I am. Now what?


Good to see you. Now that you're here, can you speculate on the matter I raised earlier, that either Methuselah or Noah was alive from Abraham right through Jesus, yet as far as either the Bible or the Egyptions were concerned, *nobody seemed to notice them* except for some passing mention. You might be even a little curious how people living 40 generations could have escaped notice so totally.  With your hotline to the *real* Bible, surely you have an answer?

Date: 2006/02/15 02:54:44, Link
Author: Flint
Carol,

I'd also like to know where you got such nice precise dates. Also, it appears that Methuselah lived through the flood. How? And if they got away with these enormous lifespans because "their fellows didn't believe them", clearly *someone* believed them (you do, and you weren't even around to watch). But how would one go about disguising this? By staying on the move all the time? The entire territory wasn't that large, and even if it was, and moving around DID disguise their longevity (leaving aside why they'd want to do this, or whether they were unusual, etc.) apparently they broke their vow of silence long enough to confide in a biblical author. A strange violation, I should think.

Your dates have Methuselah and Noah living concurrently for 600 years exactly. Nice number. I wonder why nobody bothered to record what they did together.

So I take it, by implication the Egyptians (who also failed to notice the flood, as I guess Methuselah did as well) weren't aware of these extremely long-lived people because they didn't just happen to talk to whoever wrote the bible, who was in on something that would have been of absolutely fabulous interest to all the local contemporaries of these folks, who were fooled by the lack of birth certificates (but the bible author was NOT fooled, interestingly enough).

Well, I guess if not noticing while living through a global flood that killed everyone doesn't bother you, not noticing neighbors who live 40 generations will escape your notice as well. Yet these same people, who raise oblivious to unimaginable peaks, somehow WERE able to notice someone who doesn't even exist.

Alternatively, we might speculate that people were no less capable of writing fiction at that time then they are today. Maybe they made errors of specious precision (as Renier points out), which would be snickered at today by any sophisticated reader. But hey, readers of that time were less sophisticated and more likely to fall for it.

Date: 2006/02/22 10:35:50, Link
Author: Flint
http://www.odod.state.oh.us/research/files/g701.pdf

While Columbus has the largest Ohio population within city limits, Cuyahoga county is comfortably larger, AND surrounded by more populous counties as well.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering just what the timeframe is for paying this $1M. For a jurisdiction of only a few thousand people, that's a chunk of money, maybe $100 for every person (of any age). Dover is (naturally) atypically undereducated and underachieving in comparison to the rest of the state.

Date: 2006/02/23 05:28:02, Link
Author: Flint
I tend to see much of American religious zealotry as a disease, passed from generation to generation through careful indoctrination and social reinforcement. I'm quite convinced that if by some miracle one single generation could be raised without exposure to religion, the nation would be essentially cured, and the zillions of churches would be regarded as quaint leftovers of a baffling past.

Date: 2006/03/02 03:12:52, Link
Author: Flint
I don't think so. You people are assuming religious faith is science, in the sense that it is a rational conclusion based on observation and test. It is none of this. It is neural pathways generally hardwired by childhood indoctrination and 'set up' by the time the child is old enough to defend itself. Genuine belief in magic sky daddies is almost surely not possible to acquire (though of course feigning such belief for fame or money is possible) beyond some age. After that age, it is not possible to discard entirely.

Neither education nor intelligence can cure a delusion of this nature; what they CAN do is provide ever-more-sophisticated rationalizations in support of the delusion. Scientific knowledge is qualitatively completely different from religious knowledge. Genuine religious knowledge (faith) is simply not subject to doubt, evidence, or reason.

Think of it as being like wetting the bed in your sleep. Beyond a certain age, you simply can NOT wet the bed in your sleep, and no depth of understanding of any medical necessity to do so is going to change this. What's needed is a physical, organic change. Religious faith is an induced brain malfunction. Think of cultures who bind their necks, feet, heads, or whatever from birth. These changes soon become irreversible. People are astoundingly malleable as infants.

Date: 2006/03/02 08:46:20, Link
Author: Flint
Louis,

I really don't have any better explanation. My observation of creationist engineers I've known is that the gating factor is whether their particular faith is threatened. From their perspective, it's a matter of whether or not God Has Spoken on a given topic. Anything that God Has Spoken about, however idiotic, is simply not questionable. It is TRUTH. Their minds don't, and as far as I can tell *can't*, engage the topic in any intellectual sense.

They can, and many like Behe do, construct elaborate intellectual defenses around the territory God staked out as being outside reason or evidence.

Like C.J.O'Brien, I was fascinated by Behe sitting there while it was rubbed in his face that when asked for evidence, he could only state conclusions. When asked what, besides faith, his conclusions could possibly be based on when no evidence or research existed, Behe was reduced to saying "But it's still science!"

Even more, although it was clear that Behe was the central cause of Jones finding no possible way to decouple ID from creationism, Behe (before the decision was handed down) expressed complete satisfaction that he had shown magic to be science. AFTER the decision, he cobbled together a stunning rationale for how he couldn't possibly have been wrong.

Behe, in other words, simply could not intellectually engage with any idea denied by his faith. And so I have to think this is *wiring*, it's physiological in the brain, it lies beyond the influence of conscious thought.

Date: 2006/03/03 05:10:18, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
But it's perfectly easy to understand why engineers comprise such a large subset of educated creationist.

1 They spend years working around complex systems which were all designed. 2 They don't have any biology training to know how successful evolution is, or how large the mountain of evidence is 3 They have enough technical skill to feel confident in the face of opposition.

Again, I strongly doubt this. What we're seeing is a recruitment function. Engineering is a field smart creationists can get into and perform well at, without their core beliefs being threatened or even addressed.

Another factor everyone seems to overlook is that the DI, recognizing that engineers have a lot of cachet from a public that doesn't really understand what they do, has recruited engineers to sign their propaganda.

I wonder if there's a single exception to the observation that engineers who are creationists, were creationists LONG before they went into engineering. Engineering doesn't cause or even support creationism; it simply allows a creationist to avoid facing the implications of his faith.

Date: 2006/03/06 10:43:48, Link
Author: Flint
I think Sir Toejam has identified the problem here - the inherent stability of created kinds is not a biological theory.

Date: 2006/03/28 16:09:52, Link
Author: Flint
This debate is very tired. The issue isn't when someone becomes human (a genetic notion), but rather when someone becomes a person (a legal notion). And the answer is simple: a human becomes a person when the law says so.

For nearly half the history of the US, negros were legally not persons. They could be legally treated as property in every way. This has nothing to do with genetics, intelligence, consciousness, education, or ability. It is strictly a legal definition.

In the matter of abortion, the law is currently bowing to circumstances: abortions are like immigration from Mexico: something that happens and will happen regardless of the law.

Beyond this is the congruity with American principles generally: Abortion is not mandatory (as it is some places), nor is it prohibited (as it is other places). Instead, Americans are *free to choose* without anyone's religious convictions being imposed on anyone else.

The marriage of inevitable practicality with individual liberty is a marriage made in heaven. Let the bigots rant; their right to do so is rightly protected. In a very real sense, liberty means letting other people do things you don't like and wish they wouldn't.

Date: 2006/03/31 06:20:56, Link
Author: Flint
Around we go again. The question isn't when life starts, the question is when a person legally exists. This isn't a genetic question, it's a legal question.

And so I repeat: When slaves were property, they were legally NOT PEOPLE. Their genes didn't matter. Didn't matter that they were conscious, self-aware, intelligent, educated, or anything else. Legally, they were not people. Their owners could legally kill them at any time.

Abortion is the same thing. A fetus is by law not a legal person. Unless this discussion focuses on the law, it misses the entire point.

Date: 2006/03/31 08:10:05, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Any reasonable person (a category that evidently does not include Thordaddy) understands that the legal rights of a fertilized egg are different from the legal rights of a third-trimester fetus.

I hope any reasonable person can see that this is not necessarily the case. Laws are essentially arbitrary. We can attempt to make them reasonable, but they have no requirement to be reasonable beyond the fact that if they cannot be enforced, they are nugatory.

In the US, as I understand it, the legal rights of the fetus do not change from conception to birth. They change only at birth itself. But at least, we've recognized that we are talking about legal constructs here.

Date: 2006/03/31 11:13:15, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
any reasonable (or at least knowledgeable) person understands that the rights of a fertilized egg are different from the rights of a third-trimester fetus. This is a matter of fact, not opinion.

??? Didn't you just get through saying that this is a matter of law, which varies from state to state? That what you claim is a fact is only true in some places, but not true in others?

Once again, to the best of my knowledge, in at least some states the rights of the egg and the rights of the fetus the day before birth are equally zero.

Date: 2006/03/31 11:17:11, Link
Author: Flint
thordaddy:

Quote
Lastly, if OUR HUMAN LIFE did not begin at conception, but after conception, what's the evidence that it didn't start right after conception?
Hello, anyone home?

Your human life started at conception. Your status as a legal person with legal rights started at birth.

Date: 2006/03/31 15:51:39, Link
Author: Flint
Sigh. This thread has degenerated into another illustration of what religious faith does to the reasoning faculties. As Dawkins wrote so eloquently:

Quote
... a fascinating, if pessimistic, conclusion about human psychology. It implies that there is no sensible limit to what the human mind is capable of believing, against any amount of contrary evidence. No evidence, no matter how overwhelming, no matter how all-embracing, no matter how devastatingly convincing, can ever make any difference.


And what we've been presenting to thordaddy is evidence. As though it matters. Let us pray...

Date: 2006/04/02 10:14:55, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Each of you do yourself no favors if you insist on assuming that all those that think abortion is the killng of human life do so out of religious motivation.  My motivations have nothing to do with religion, but instead have to do with having children and following the science.

I guess I need to keep repeating until something sinks in. Abortion is the killing of a human life. Religion has nothing to do with that. It's a matter of genetics: the fetus is alive, it's human. Killing it takes a human life.

What abortion is NOT killing, is a person. Not a child, not a legal entity of any kind. Until we recognize that a human life is a biological entity, and a person is a LEGAL entity, we will continue to misunderstand one another.

The abortion debate isn't whether we're taking a life, it's whether we are committing murder. Murder means unlawfully killing a person. A person is a legal construct.

Date: 2006/04/02 13:03:57, Link
Author: Flint
thordaddy:

Quote
The only ones that keeping saying "murder" are those that seem to support abortion.  The point is that there is no scientific basis to distinguish the human life from the human person.  Do you agree or not?

Again, you just can't seem to grasp it, can you? Legal arguments are not scientific arguments. I have no problem with your science. And as a matter of propaganda, the "murder" label was invented, and continues to be deployed, solely by the anti-abortion crowd. They use it for emotional control. Those who support human rights (of which abortion is undeniably one) speak of human rights. You know, things like fair play, don't force me to do what you don't want me to force you to do, things like that.

Consciousness, intelligence, awareness, knowledge, education, are all irrelevant. I will repeat for at least the third time now, the slaves were sometimes all these things, but they were not persons. They were property. That's not a scientific determination, it's a legal determination.

There is in fact no "scientific" way to distinguish between morally right and morally wrong. Moral questions are not amenable to scientific investigation in any way. You might as well use science to determine if red is a prettier color than blue.

The issue here is not scientific. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

Date: 2006/04/02 14:53:03, Link
Author: Flint
If a double-blind experiment of this sort was found to have a statisically significant effect (in any direction), who among us would conclude that at least one of those doing the praying had correctly visualized and was praying at a "real" god? Who might suspect that, just maybe, something less supernatural was going on?

Just possibly, somone might do a follow-up study on the religious beliefs of those *doing* the study. Just as a f'rinstance.

Date: 2006/04/03 03:01:20, Link
Author: Flint
thordaddy:

I'm starting to understand the contempt you have earned on this thread. You don't listen at all.

Quote
But as far as I can discern, original legal arguments need to be based on something other than other legal arguments.

Who said they weren't? Laws are based on the desire to avoid if possible, and if not then to resolve as painlessly as possible, any social conflicts.

Quote
Secondly, I have not used the "murder" label, but have instead used the appropriate language to describe what abortion entails.

I notice in your very next statement, you use the murder label.

Quote
I say so what?  You are simply saying that the law may be changed to justifiy and legalize the murder of any person.  Afterall, we have quite some precedent.

See, there it is! But you are correct, murder is a legal construct. Taking the life of another human being is not necessarily murder. If done in wartime, it produces heroes. If done in self defense, it's fine. If policement do it in the line of duty, it's not only appropriate but considered necessary. If done for abortion, it's considered the right of the pregnant woman.

However, I hope you notice that laws are not entirely arbitrary. They are intended (as I wrote above) to avoid and/or resolve conflicts. As we have learned the hard way (with drugs, with alcohol, with abortion, and countless other laws), the attempt to enforce unenforceable laws results in an increase rather than a decrease in conflict.

Quote
Then science cannot be our basis fror this law.  That's all you are saying.  And since morality and religion can also not be the basis for our law in this situation, what exactly are we basing abortion law on?


Ultimately, the law is based on trial and error. Over the long run, we make laws, and see what the results are (often completely different from what's intended or expected). We modify the laws with the intention of improving the results. This process goes on continuously. What triggers the process is that too many people are too unhappy with the status quo, for whatever reason. And often enough, passing a law results in even MORE people even MORE unhappy with the change, and the modification cycle continues.

Quote
Science doesn't WANT to be apart of this discussion because it doesn't align with correct political ideology.

Nope, you have completely misunderstood. Science can tell us the facts, but science can NOT tell us what we ought to do with them or why. I can agree that laws work best if they are informed by the facts, because the consequences of the law are most predictable in that case. But even if science could tell us precisely what the consequences of every law would be, science STILL could not tell us which consequences to prefer.

Quote
One cannot but laugh at the notion that "evolution" is a fact when the very entity that defines this "fact" is in fact itself undefined.

What entity is that? Evolution is a fact, and science is the appropriate way to determine this. Science has done so. What's your point?

Quote
If there is NO scientific basis for human life then there is NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS PERIOD.

I don't know what you're trying to say here. Of course there is a scientific basis for human life. Which has absolutely nothing to do with a society deciding which lives to protect, which to terminate, and which to remain silent about in deference to the rights of the individual members of that society. Those are SOCIAL decisions. Science is irrelevant.

Date: 2006/04/03 04:48:32, Link
Author: Flint
Chris:

Quote
So we can argue all we want about what scientifically constitues a human life, but as Flint said that argument is irrelevant to the current law which is based on embryo viability. If you want to argue that the law should be changed to include any idea of a human life, then that is a moral argument.

US law is perhaps somewhat different, and varies by state. But in many states, embryo viability is not a legal restriction. Also, you are implying that the law is based on morality, and this is not necessarily the case. The law can be based on whatever we determine we should base it on. Morality, practicality, enforceability, cost, majority vote, whatever.

I'm rather surprised the UK law is workable, though. Do those who are wealthier (or otherwise more culturally privileged) get their abortions under the table, or do they leave the country to get them?

Date: 2006/04/03 05:27:12, Link
Author: Flint
Chris,

Thanks, very interesting link. This was important:
Quote
When establishing the level of risk to health, doctors can take into consideration a woman's ‘actual or reasonably foreseeable environment', which includes her personal and social situation.

With rational interpretation, this strikes me as a Good Thing. Generally, unwanted pregnancies are unwanted for a good reason; good enough so that a child will be unwelcome, unsupportable, etc. In practice, this amounts to choice.

The 6-month limit on choice also strikes me as reasonable. If you do NOT want a child, it shouldn't take more than 6 months to figure this out.

Date: 2006/04/03 10:14:17, Link
Author: Flint
Spike:

Quote
I'm really trying to understand how pro-abortion folks on this thread decide where to draw the line between person and non-person.

I'm not sure exactly what you're asking. Personally, it's simple. Not born, not a person. Born, legal person. Simple.

But as I wrote earlier on this thread, this policy has plenty of exceptions. Enemy soldiers are "inconveniences" in wartime. Kill them, you're a military hero. Someone threatening your life is inconvenient as well; they're fair game.

As for abortion, laws against it are much like prohibition: so difficult to enforce as to make enforcement capricious and highly unfair. Easy for the rich, hard for the poor. Such laws don't prevent abortions, they only increase the incidence of incompetent abortions.

Quote
There are plenty of people walking around right now that are a burden on "society."

Depending on how burdensome they are, they can be imprisoned indefinitely or (in many places) executed.

Anway, we as a society must balance out many factors: the degree of burden, the definition of personhood, the social and financial costs, the political ideals and how they are to be applied: Should abortion be mandatory (as in some places), prohibited (as in other places), or up to the individual (where Big Brother allows personal freedom)? Associated with this is the question of reciprocation: if you are willing to meddle in the lives of others, would you accept their meddling in YOUR life to the same degree? Like FORCING you to abort, whether you wanted to or not, because THEY decided it was for your own good?

And to some degree, depending on your preferences, there's the technological issue of when viability starts, and whether that point is meaningful, morally speaking. Again, this question becomes significant only for those with enough money (or insurance) to make a difference.

Not a simple yes/no issue, but rather an issue where many people take many different positions for many different reasons. Which leads to the most important question of all:

Who are you to dictate my life, and who am I to dictate yours?

Date: 2006/04/03 11:34:52, Link
Author: Flint
Spike:

Quote
So, being a person who prefers to err on the side of caution ragarding the killing of innocents, I go all the way back to conception as the point at which human rights begin.

And isn't it wonderful that you can not only hold this opinion, but act on it without anyone else telling you that their opinion is better than yours?

Quote
I've listened to all the arguments about discriminating against babies in the womb

Isn't it great that you get to select whatever slanted terminology ratifies your conclusions, and nobody is stopping you? Wouldn't it be great if the hypocrites could realize that depriving other people of their rights is very dangerous, because tomorrow THEY might be among the 'other people'?

Quote
More directly: Mandatory sterlization is much better for "society" than is abortion.

And aren't you fortunate that you can hold this opinion, but nobody is going to mandatorily sterilize YOU, like you seem willing to do to others?

If there is anything that characterizes the "I'm cramming my preferences down YOUR throat" crowd, it's this fundamental, unavoidable double standard. I have never yet met a "my way or the highway" fanatic who shows the slightest clue what the Golden Rule actually says.

Date: 2006/04/03 13:46:51, Link
Author: Flint
thordaddy;

Well, I'll keep trying for a while. Maybe we can communicate.

Quote
Is there a framework to work with?  I mean, what constitutes a social conflict?

People disagreeing with one another.

Quote
What constitutes pain?  Is emotional pain more aggregious than physical pain?
That's entirely up to whoever experiences it.

Quote
Is the mother's SPECULATIVE PREDICTIONS about the future of HER CHILD represent greater pain than the killing of her child in an abortion?

That's up to her, not you. If YOU are pregnant (note: a pregnant woman is not a mother of a fetus. She becomes a mother of a child at birth. Not before) then YOU get to make this decision. Nobody else.

Quote
And so my statement was correct as I said nothing about using it further into the conversation.  But if you'll care to notice, it was used in an entirely correct context and did not relate to nonpersons.

You need to re-read what you wrote, in this case. Murder is defined as the *unlawful taking of a person's life.* You're correct that the law may be changed to legalize the taking of a person's life, but in that case, it's no longer murder because it is no longer unlawful.

Quote
Unfortunately, the arguments for wartime and self-defense are infinitely greater than the mere choice of ALL INDIVIDUAL WOMEN to abort their children.

I hope you can recognize that you just stated a personal opinion not shared by everyone. If YOU find some arguments more persuasive, fine. If others don't, also fine. They're as entitled to their opinions as you are. Or don't you think so?

Quote
The question then becomes, how has this been justified when the science is shining ever more light on what actually takes place in the course of an abortion.

Try to stay on topic. Let's grant that we know, or can learn, everything there is to know about every relevant fact. NO facts are at issue here at all. What is at issue are legal constructs.

Quote
The moral argument is already strong

You have an MO here, I notice. You state your opinion as thought it were a fact, and then you attempt draw conclusions based on the logical implications of your opinions. But I really don't consider myself bound by your opinions. I consider them wrong.

Quote
the advocates for abortion have relied upon the ignorance or shere obfuscation of "science" to justify at least in part their arguments for abortion.

This claim is simply false. No obfuscation has taken place in our discussion. We have granted the accuracy of everything science can learn. Hopefully, we have recognized that the legal issue is something entirely unrelated.

Quote
I think science in now abortion's greatest foe.  Legal arguments will evolve to meet this new insight like they have done before.

Except of course this has nothing to do with science, nor is your opinion any kind of insight. My support for abortion is based on the notion of freedom and liberty - that I will not force you to act according to my opinion, and you will not force me to act according to your opinion. That you are entitled to conduct YOUR life according to YOUR preferences, and I have no authority to prevent this. Nor would I want to, for fear you might turn around and do the same to me.

Quote
Yet, one could easily argue that abortion has not decreased the conflict, but has in fact increased it.

Yes, but not accurately. What we in the US have done is traded one kind of conflict for another. At the cost of offending busybody religious fanatics, we have granted equality and human rights to all citizens.

Quote
Are the children any less wanted?  Are children treated with more or less compassion?

As a matter of fact, yes. Economists and criminologists and demographers spent some considerable research trying to learn why certain types of violent crimes went WAY down (cut in half!;) during the 1990s and then stayed down. Exhaustive analysis has provided the answer: the cohort of people who committed those crimes -- poor, bad neighborhoods, lots of drugs, high unemployment, gangs -- *were not born* because they were aborted. In other words, only WANTED children were born. They are better off, and everyone around them is better off. Abortion has without question been a social boon.

Quote
Then the law will evolve to reflect the unprecendent scientific insight into what exactly an abortion constitutes.

What ARE you talking about? There are no scientific insights here.

Quote
The moral arguments will only be strengthened and the law will bend to the will of the enlightened.

Which I take it means you and not them? THEY will bend to YOUR moral superiority, right? YOU will not bend to THEIR opinions, because THEY are wrong and YOU are right. Is that it?

Quote
A fact based on the knowledge of an undefiniable entity seems undefiniable itself.  Isn't the the argument against ID?[/qote]
I askied what entity this was, and I notice you didn't answer. so I still don't understand what you're talking about. Evolution is based on observation. In fact, based on many millions of related observations. The argument against ID is, they have ZERO observations. None.

[quote]You are claiming that human life is undefiniable

I said no such thing. I will repeat: a human life begins at conception. It is well defined. We all know what it is.

Quote
If you don't know who or what you are

Since this is both false and foolish, the rest of your claim is irrelevant. You really do need to learn how to keep on topic.

Date: 2006/04/03 15:37:56, Link
Author: Flint
Spike:

Quote
1. Do you have any citiations to orginal research other than the one paper by the fellow who writes the "Freakonomics" column?
As I recall, the chapter of the Freakonomics book that discusses this has numerous footnotes. It's not make believe.

Quote
2. When does a social boon trump individual rights?

As Justice Holmes wrote, our freedom to swing our arm ends where the next guy's nose begins. The trick is to *balance* individual scope of action, with the needs of the society on which the individual depends in order to HAVE any scope of action. It's a series of trade-offs. Fortunately, the right to abort is BOTH an individual right and a social boon. A win-win proposition.

Quote
This is yet another arbitrary definition you've pulled out of your ear.
Not arbitrary. A mother is someone with a child. Here's a dictionary definition if you really want one: "a woman who has given birth to a child." Not my definition, not arbitrary, not out of my ear. You are wrong three times. Not bad...

Quote
Except the ones from whom we withhold equality and human rights by virtue of legal mumbo-jumbo.

Not so. We withhold rights from those citizens who have committed crimes. Remember, we're talking about *citizens* here, not potential citizens.

Quote
Am I a religious fanatic, too?

So far, you haven't cited any particular religious doctrine. You dislike *other people* being able to do things you wish they wouldn't. Join the club. The question is, how do we react when people exercise the same rights we have? Do we defend their (and thus our) rights, or do we apply double standards?

Quote
Specifically, I think the government should neither protect nor deny abortions. Instead, the government should protect the doctor’s right to ply her trade as she sees fit, and the patient’s right to choose the doctor the patient wants.

This seems essentially the system we have today. Doctors are not obliged to offer services, for the most part. I liked the UK system where doctors ARE obliged to refer patients to whoever can (or will) help them. Abortion is a private decision, absolutely none of the government's business.

Quote
But what about the situation when the woman wants the abortion and the man does not? Do we say the man has no rights to let his child live?

Yes. If the man wishes to endure the pregnancy and undergo childbirth, then it becomes HIS decision. At least, that's the way I see it. And I see it that way, because ideally a child is wanted by BOTH parents.

Date: 2006/04/04 07:00:56, Link
Author: Flint
We need to separate the issues of what is human, from what is legal. I see some people simply can't grasp the difference. For Spike, being genetically human means being possessed of all the rights of citizenship - the right to vote, to own property, etc. But in the Real World ™ this is not practical.

Spike sees a continuum from conception through death, with no particularly notable milestones along the way. Things like birth are kind of irrelevant. Yet the law, rather arbitrarily, makes LOTS of age distinctions: When someone is old enough for their life to be protected (birth), old enough to drive, to vote, toinherit, to gain control of trusts, receive social security, withdraw certain savings without paying penalties, receive senior citizen discounts, get drafted/enlist in the military, and so on down a VERY long list of items.

Does the law draw these arbitrary distinctions solely because the law is an ass, or might there be some useful reason for them? If there is NO useful reason, then let's all agree that people are too stupid to live, and be done with it. Otherwise, we are obliged to examine the tradeoffs of every selected age, to see what the costs and the benefits might be of changing any given age, in either direction.

This is NOT a trivial exercise: every cost to someone is a benefit to someone else. Even talking about NET costs and benefits entails assigning weights to each, with no consensus as to how anything should be weighted.

So what people have discovered over lo these thousands of years is, what matters is NOT the details of the law per se, what matters is the *process* by which laws are made, modified, and interpreted. Humans being a gregarious and social species, any workable process must be a community process in some important ways.

What the American political process has produced is never written in stone; it's always subject to 'reform', change in any direction. Abortion is a case in point: prohibition was producing what the public at large recognized as costs exceeding benefits. So we're engaged in the long slow process of trial and error, to see where the tradeoff finds the most publically acceptable balance.

And this is a political issue. Science is not involved.

Date: 2006/04/04 13:29:38, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
No one as of yet has answered the question posed in the initial thread.

That question has been answered at least 50 times now. Problem is, you *don't like* the answer, so you pretend not to see it.

Quote
We already know that abortion is an abolition of responsibility...

We all know that until you get the answer your ideology demands, you will pay no attention to anything anyone says.

But since I'm here, I will repeat: this is NOT a scientific issue. Not in any way. This is a legal issue, and a political issue.

Now, you may continue barking up the wrong tree. Your quarry isn't up there. Sorry.

Date: 2006/04/05 03:50:49, Link
Author: Flint
Stephen:

Quote
I suspect you are demanding this in order to justify imposing your world-view onto others.

Exactly so. He has a preference, based on nothing to do with science. He can't justify his preference except by projecting fake (and irrelevant) science onto it. He absolutely refuses to focus on the issue he's raising, because being honest doesn't favor his politics.


thordaddy:

Quote
You aren't actually saying that in 1973 and henceforth, the argument that the women was aborting "a clump of cells" wasn't a scientific argument?

Nope, this is not a scientific argument in any way. This is an attempt to do just what you are doing: using self-serving terminology in the interests of supporting a political preference. This is a political issue, not a scientific issue. You MUST deal with it in political terms.

And so once again: the egg and sperm are alive. They are human. They are human life. At conception, they change phase, but are still human life. They remain human life until the organism dies. Abortion terminates a human life. No question about it. So much for the science.

NOW, is this acceptable? Should it be legally permitted? Under what circumstances? Should there be any time frame when abortion is allowed or disallowed? Is there some point when we the people think the rights of the woman get trumped by the rights of her fetus? Should a fetus have any rights? If so, what rights should they be? If abortion is permitted during any period of pregnancy, should the cost be covered by the State? By insurance? Should these questions be answered by the courts, the legislature, or the bureaucracy? What role should morality play, and who gets to apply moral weighting to the needs and desires of the various parties involved?

THESE are the questions that matter. No science is involved.

Date: 2006/04/05 14:12:11, Link
Author: Flint
TD:

Quote
The only claim made was that both YOUR LIFE and MY LIFE began at conception.

You see this as my "world-view" because you obviously hold an opposing "world-view."


Let's see. This is the third, or perhaps the fourth time, I have agreed that there is a human life at conception. I have never once disagreed or made any other claim. How can I be opposed to what I have repeated without exception so many times?

As I've also written multiple times, you simply do not listen.
You pay no attention to what anyone has said. You're welcome to your world of make believe.

Quote
Then where have the scientists been to decry this gross abuse of scientific knowledge by political ideologues?

And there you go again. This issue has nothing to do with science. If science is not involved, scientific knowledge is irrelevant. It can't be abused if it's not involved. But you can't listen, once again.

Quote
Weak... a sperm and egg don't transition.  They come together to produce a UNIQUE HUMAN BEING.  We call this conception.  That's the science.
But it's irrelevant. You ignore this once again. Yes, it's a unique human being. So what? NOW what do we do? The sun rises in the east. Equally relevant. PLEASE listen.

Quote
So science, we see once again, is really irrelevant in deciding tough issues?

No, science is irrelevant in deciding nonscientific issues. This is NOT a scientific issue. Being a tough issue has nothing to do with science.

If you can EVER address the topic, we might have a fruitful discussion. Otherwise, you might want to read your questions into a tape recorder. You obviously would enjoy the playback MUCH more than the answers.

Date: 2006/04/06 02:39:26, Link
Author: Flint
thordaddy:

Quote
You deliniate between human life and human being.  I don't know why or how.

You probably don't know because I have not done this, at all. Not even once. You are *making this up*, because you don't like what I said so you need to change the subject.

What I have distinguished between is a human life/human being and a legal person. I pointed out, now for the third or fourth time (since you never listen) that by law, slaves were not legal persons. Whether they were human lives or human beings is not the question. Trying to make it the question is changing the subject. Legal persons are whoever the law says are legal persons. Human rights are whatever the law says are human rights. If you can't stay on topic, you will never understand the issue.

Nonetheless, I expect you do come back and claim I said yet something else you NEED me to have said, that I never said. But you are not arguing with me, you are arguing with some imaginary caricature you have dreamed up to fit your needs.

Date: 2006/04/07 06:05:38, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I have been told repeatedly that science has no role in defining human life as it pertains to the abortion phenomenon.

Never gets tired of the same lies, does he. He has been told endlessly that the legal declaration of a legal person with specific legal rights is not a scientific question. So far, thordaddy has seen the word "legal" about a hundred times, and has simply excised it every time he repeats the same misdirected question.

Perhaps others are muddying the waters here? Abortion is a LEGAL ISSUE. It has nothing to do with science. Nothing.

Date: 2006/04/07 10:58:59, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
GoP can think in complicated ways. He can make careful distinctions. His mental ability isn't the problem, his problem lies in enslaving that ability to the religious conclusion. He's using acrobatics to try to get to jesus.

This is always deeply unsettling. Kind of like watching a potential decathlete having an epileptic fit - SO CLOSE to being truly excellent, and then suffering a debilitating flaw that no amount of training or dedication can overcome.

Nonetheless, the distinction between stupid and religion-addled can be danm hard to draw when the topic is religious in nature. I really couldn't say whether thordaddy's numbing inability to read what anyone says is stupidity or the kind of reality-lockout religion induces. I'm betting on religion; anyone THAT stupid generally couldn't use a computer in the first place.

Date: 2006/04/07 14:08:52, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
It is too much of a stretch to say that conception is no more important a milestone than turning 18.

But of course, nobody made this claim. The claim was that milestones (without ranking their relative importance along any particular scale) are legally arbitrary.Yes, an effort is made to make these milestones "reasonable". But what is reasonable? Basically, reasonable is a tradeoff. Changing any designation has ramifications, which society decides through political processes are good or bad ones.

Quote
Nature seems to work in such a way that altho there are crucial milestones, they do not stand alone in utter separation from prior events. Water goes along degree by degree until it hits 212 or 32

Yes, I suppose it can be argued that life also has phase changes. Conception is one, birth is one, death is one. There are no others. And conception is very hard to pinpoint.

And this leaves us with birth and death, the traditional start and end of a human person. When these occur is clear and unambiguous. Clear and unambiguous is important, because laws are impossible to enforce if they are based on maybe.

Date: 2006/04/10 05:54:51, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Point 3), while I suppose technically within the domain of science, is probably beyond anyone's current ability to investigate usefully. Too many independent variables too difficult to control for or factor out (and let's omit the 'naughty behavior', which belongs back in your factor 1. Surely homosexuals are going to be more inclined to engage in homosexual behavior).

But more specification would be useful. If we designate homosexual behaviors as crimes, is it honest to then turn around and say homosexuals are "more inclined to criminal behavior"? I wouldn't be comfortable calling that a "scientific investigation." Would you?

Your first question is strictly a value question, phrased poorly for lack of any baseline. Are we talking here about normative positions ("being homosexual is bad") or about cost/benefit considerations to the society? How would you go about quantifying these things?

Your post does make your position clear: Homosexual behavior is bad, it is wrong, it should not be tolerated, queers are diseased naughty criminally-inclined people, it's an insult to disagree with these positions, as would be expected from liberals. NOW, let's all be scientific and objective on this playing field.

Date: 2006/04/10 07:46:02, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost,

OK, I considered your questions to be leading questions, which wouldn't even be asked if they did not presume the shape of the answers if not the specifics. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

There's no question that social acceptance of any behavior largely throttles that behavior. But there's also no question but that the specific behaviors rewarded or rejected by any given society (or region) are in constant flux. Just as a typical example, if I wish I can wear my hair down to my waist and work in a corporate suit-and-tie environment and nobody thinks twice about it. Imagine 50 years ago!

Granted, social inertia is a considerable obstacle for lots of things, but fashions in morality change. Wasn't long ago when confinement was used as a pretense that the pregnant woman hadn't, like, done anything dirty. Today, marriage is pretty optional and sex taken much more for granted. Perhaps your categories of indecency or promiscuity are undergoing a similar sea change.

The point I'm trying to support here is that where there is no harm done, fashions CAN change. And by observation, fashions can change in targeted directions. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if within a generation or two society at large accepts that homosexuality exists, that homosexual couples are pretty common and do what any other couple does -- *provided* some effort is made to bring this about. Conversely, treating homosexuality as a voluntary sin, to be roundly condemned, can push in the other direction.

I personally would speculate that the cost to society of tolerating homosexual behavior would be the loss of the leverage of "superiority" that some people need, the loss of a category of people to look down on. Without addressing spirituality generally, I think it's clear that specific religious doctrines tend to be rather judgmental and petty in this way, to meet certain needs.

I find your statement about "liberal null hypothesis" and your sarcasm about "straight white Christians" to be disconcerting. What do you mean by this? My guess is that we're talking about a feedback process, where rejection of some behaviors causes the behaviors to be more aggressive, leading to more rejection. How should science investigate social dynamics absent any society?

The question "what role should societal rejection play" is qualitatively different from what role it DOES play. I have no doubt the role it does play can and will change. These things swing back and forth. What role it *should* play is entirely arbitrary.

Date: 2006/04/10 09:40:05, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Look at the abuse hurled Thordaddy's way for daring to suggest that a disproportionate number of homosexuals engage in destructive behavior such as casual, unprotected sex. He may well be wrong, but that's an empirical issue.

Can we say disingenuous, boys and girls?

thordaddy has generally taken a position of religious intolerance, with the usual ramifications - queers are bad, abortions are bad, etc. His assertions about destructive behavior flow from his postulates, not vice versa.

Having tried to penetrate that mindset, I've learned: thordaddy is not interested in the evidence. Even if his claims are factually incorrect, he'll make them because they fit his requirements. Which is what people are complaining about. And which DOES make him a bigot.

Quote
And if he's correct, then society has every right to question the ethos that produces the behavior.

If you do say so yourself, right? Sexual activity isn't motivated by an "ethos", it's motivated by biology. It's probably worthwhile from a social perspective to identify and hopefully neutralize any damage caused by that activity. I hope we agree that "casual, unprotected sex" is only "destructive" if it's a vector for preventable disease. In which case, it probably makes more sense to address the disease (which we can cure) rather than sexual motivation (which we can't cure, we hope!;)

We might also argue that casual, unprotected *heterosexual* activity results in unwanted pregnancies, which also can be destructive. But we have a two-pronted attack against this: condoms during sex (also good against disease), and failing any birth control, abortion afterwards. So far, I would argue that these techniques have been LESS effective than they otherwise might have, precisely because of the prevalance of the attitude thordaddy is illustrating.

So the issue isn't whether thordaddy's claims meet the burden of proof. The issue is that it's the thordaddies of the nation whose claims become self-fulfilling. He is directly part of the problem; part of the contingent that acts to *ensure* that his accusations become as true as he can make them.

Would homosexuals be more sexually responsible, if the nation's thordaddies encouraged rather than attempted to prohibit long-term committed relationships?

Date: 2006/04/10 11:30:42, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Yes, I agree Occam here has gotten derailed. Gender is unambiguous and important enough for us to treat it as purely bimodal for legal purposes, without enough exceptions for that to be troublesome. Which makes me wonder why you chose Occam's response to address?

I also agree that the biology of certain fish is of dubious relevance to human society. OK?

Meanwhile, Russell focuses directly on the issue and asks very good questions. Do you have answers for them?

Date: 2006/04/10 13:51:43, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Excellent ideas, as the mice agreed about putting a bell on the cat. But I would pay VERY careful attention to the experimental designs. I imagine you would too. Offhand, I can't think of any good way to isolate most antisocial behaviors to biology, or even quantify the biological component if any. I understand it's considered very poor form to assume what you're trying to check out, but I confess I could not define some of these terms without building some assumptions into the definitions. 'Antisocial'? 'Abuse'? At the margin, these are straight eye-of-the-beholder things.

I agree we should examine all plausible sources of homosexual (or other than straight heterosexual) desires and impulses. So far, the only explanation I've seen unambiguously ruled out is voluntary choice.

The majority view on this thread, as I understand it (and I can't make any sense of nearly anything thordaddy says) is that sexual orientation, in and of itself, is socially neutral and unexceptional, *except* insofar as insecure people find excuses to demonize something sufficiently nonconforming as to be directly visible. But when enough people join the Forces of Rejection, this causes the otherwise neutral behavior to become polarizing. And THAT, in turn, tricks us into studying the behavior itself, rather than the REAL culprit, the engineered and unnecessary social reaction to it.

But maybe I'm misreading?

Date: 2006/04/10 14:58:28, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I'm with you there. My understanding is that there have been long-term stable societies where same-sex sexual relationships have not been met with hostility. My guess would be that the societies are stable because these relationships themselves can be stable. I agree that promiscuity has both medical and emotional side-effects, none of them desirable.

But this is one of those things that confuses me about the conservative opposition to same-sex marriage. I should think the implied long-term commitment would be exactly what the conservatives want to promote.

As you'd probably expect, I agree with Russell that you should not lump all social conservative policies into the same bag. Homosexuality is NOT a choice; here the social conservatives are wrong. Many homosexuals DO want a committed relationship with the same duties and privileges you enjoy, and the social conservatives are wrong to oppose this.

The social benefits of easily available abortion have been beneficial without exception or ambiguity, a win-win-win situation for the woman with an undesired pregnancy, for society in the form of the crimes not committed by those not born to commit them, and even for those aborted rather than born into an unwelcoming environment unwilling and unable to raise them properly. Add another win for getting Big Brother out of peoples' personal lives and for people not finding that an intensely personal matter is either mandatory or forbidden by parties elsewhere. I'll admit right now I can't understand the opposition to abortion; it strikes me as perversity for its own sake; the effort to make *everyone* suffer just for the satisfiaction of knowing you're causing suffering!

And you call this 'a lot of sense'? You seem to be missing something important here. Nobody is cheerleading for misery, disease, jealousy, contempt, or homicide. It's true that free-love communes solved none of these problems, and made many of them worse. But bad policies don't become good just because some 'solutions' were steps in the wrong direction.

Date: 2006/04/10 15:02:36, Link
Author: Flint
Wow. I find it difficult to believe that in order to act morally and not shoot up kids in schools, I have to believe in one of the most bizarre sets of fantasies ever invented. And this despite that fact that atheists are WAY underrepresented in prisons.

Ghost pretends to address issues and think, but when cornered, up goes the irrationality and you can feel the floor shake from the force of his mind slamming shut. Sheesh.

Date: 2006/04/10 16:26:34, Link
Author: Flint
sir_toejam:

Quote
there are many societies that have/had regarded polygamy as the norm, and have no problems with that.  Others that use promiscuity like the bonobos do, as a social binding force.

This is somewhat outside my knowledge. Can you provide a few links? If this is the case, then we have an actual working model of what we might wish to shoot for in some ways.

Ghost:

Quote
I'm trying to avoid an abortion debate at all costs, so let me just say that most social conservatives would not find this line of reasoning very fetching.

I understand. I don't wish to get into that debate either. I simply wanted to point out that we're not dealing here with any situation that "1000's of years of social selection" has addressed in the past. This is much more a question of what modern technology permits, fighting against a clearly irrational rejection despite the fact that the evidence accumulated in even a relatively short time has overwhelmingly discredited the conservative resistance.

Look, I understand that fools rush in, and that history, especially long history, is an excellent crucible testing what works and what does not. But different=wrong, all by itself, isn't sufficient. So I was raising one case where the conservative position has NO merits. None. Just to show that conservativism isn't necessarily based on analysis of merits. It's much more instinctive, I think.

Quote
Their track record doesn't inspire much confidence in the future. Did you ever see the "The Harrad Experiment"? It all looked so groovy at the time. Who could argue against such logic? Reality, that's who.

Yet earlier, I had thought we agreed that social realities can be distinctly flexible. That's why I asked toejam for more information. Your conservative position seems to be that new-and-different, plunked down in a conservative fundamentalist milieu, is going to fail badly. But that's not the issue; the issue is whether the social fabric is flexible enough to accommodate what might even work better, given enough time.

Occam:

As I said, I think sexuality is bimodal enough for social laws and customs to treat it as having no exceptions. This is something different from accommodating those exceptions that exist, though.

Quote
Now tell me - how was society harmed by their relationship? What sexual mores got wiped out?  How did their actions condone “free love”, or “open relationships”?  Or signal an “end to marriage”?

Here is where I wonder if Ghost is genuinely one of those hysterics who see a same-sex couple and start bellowing about how this is the end of the world. On other forums, I've run into these yahoos, and I've repeatedly asked how MY marriage is threatened, in any way they can imagine however far-fetched. The closest anyone has come is to say that if we permit such behaviors, society will abandon any sense of right and wrong and we will ALL start shooting kids in schools.

Kind of sad to see Ghost parroting that same party line.

Date: 2006/04/11 03:14:25, Link
Author: Flint
Nike,

I spent, oh, half a dozen or more posts trying to explain that since this is an arbitrary definition, and no definition is inherently better than any other, the matter is properly decided through legal rather than scientific processes. But this observation never penetrated, not even a little bit. But I don't feel slighted, as I can see that nobody else's answers have done any better. The 'Eliza' program is more rational and coherent than thordaddy.

Date: 2006/04/11 03:18:39, Link
Author: Flint
I can't quite parse the original question. The answer is, "That's the way the Designer chose to do it." The question seems entirely irrelevant. So ID can't be refuted by anything at all.

Date: 2006/04/11 05:13:00, Link
Author: Flint
seven popes:

My suspicion is that thordaddy knows queers choose to be sinful, but has never before had to think it through. The effort to do so requires that he apply skepticism to his absolutes, and I can see that this renders him confused, incoherent, and circular. It also highlights that he has certain blind spots, so that good questions like yours simply don't exist. They're literally not there.

I saw Easy Rider after I returned from two tours in Vietnam. And I thought it was too violent!

Date: 2006/04/11 16:16:50, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
In my opinion, there's not much to distinguish a third-trimester fetus from a newborn. Any differences are quantitative rather than qualitative.

OK, two brief (for me, anyway) comments on this:

1) When we decide a developing human should be granted legal personhood is essentially arbitrary, just like when we declare adulthood or seniorhood. These are fairly important distinctions without any qualitative differences.

2) However, the degree to which it is not arbitrary have to do with practical considerations: unambiguous milestones, enforceability, political concerns and forces.

Personally, I'd be willing to vote for some point during pregnancy after which (1) the fetus bears enough resemblance to a newborn to have enough emotional appeal for enough people; and (2) after which the pregnant woman has had easily sufficient opportunity to change her mind and have an abortion if she wishes. BOTH these should be true, I think - to change her mind AND to have the opportunity to act accordingly.

But I can recognize that birth is a clear, obvious milestone, easy to define and enforce, which also dovetails with other legal rights (and is where we start counting toward all those subsequent magic times).

Quote
Everyone who advocates that gay marriage should be legalized is assuming that this will end the matter. But what if gays decide that marriage isn't enough (there's still all this institutionalized homophobia floating around, don't you know), so a good dose of affirmative action, set-asides, and hate-crime legislation are in order?

I genuinely don't understand what you are worried about here. Are you suggesting that these programs would be demanded EVEN IF there is no clear inequality in de facto effect?

I shouldn't need to point out that the 1954 Brown decision, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, failed to provide much effective equality. Blacks STILL could not get jobs, get into colleges, get a decent public school education, and in a thousand ways weren't on a level playing field. You seem to be saying, hey, if we let them marry, they will act uppity and demand the same opportunities you have. Terrible thing.

Quote
Furthermore, many gays have embraced a decadent lifestyle...much of the social fabric has already been unraveled

What bothers me is, you might not be kidding, you might actually *believe* this. You've already laid claim to beliefs even more peculiar. But "different from how I wish to live" is a bit more neutral than "decadent" or "unraveled". You are applying pejoratives to anything you find unfamiliar or different. Granted, I'm only 60, not yet old enough to have the perspective to see how the world is going to he11 in a handbasket like you and other old people have bemoaned for millennia. Too bad you feel the need to maintain the status quo at *someone else's* expense. But entirely typical.

Date: 2006/04/11 16:24:20, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
And where do all those unique identities go? (Maybe they're recycled or something. I'd like to know.)

There have been a few science fiction short stories revolving around the notion that the supply of souls (or consciousnesses, or whatever) available at any given time is exceeded. Generally, the conceit is played for laughs.

Date: 2006/04/12 05:55:51, Link
Author: Flint
I'm not sure I'm quite grasping the distinction between decadent and irresponsible. I confess that since the advent of AIDS, I too have had unprotected sex with women not known to be HIV negative. I grant this is of dubious responsibility. Am I therefore decadent, or simply lonely?

Date: 2006/04/12 08:12:37, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Plus, many of the men continued to have unprotected sex even when they knew they were HIV positive. That's just pure sociopathy.

One thing leads to another, I guess. You're correct, this behavior is reprehensible. But I doubt being homosexual predisposes an individual to be more likely to do it. I have no doubt that if YOU were aware you had some STD, no amount of temptation could influence you to take such a risk. I wish I could say the same for myself, but I can't.

Quote
By the way, the study is saying that the majority of gay HIV + men are being irresponsible, not the majority of gay men overall. Sorry for the mistake.

Probably moot. I would hate to be faced with the prospect of introspecting whether the knowledge that I had HIV would influence my sexual practices. I would certainly like to think so, but I'm also very thankful that I'm not faced with the decision in Real Life. And again, I doubt that the gender of the object of my interests would have much to do with my behavior.

Quote
AIDs may not discriminate, but it does seem to target Africans, drug-users, and gay men. Doesn't this indicate where most prevention efforts should be directed?

If I may say so, this locution begs to be misinterpreted. AIDS itself doesnt 'target' anyone. This disease could have originated in (let's say) Indiana, and it would appear to 'target' Hoosiers, at least for the most part, for some period of time. Are Hoosiers therefore 'more decadent' than the rest of the nation? This is the kind of implication that makes you look bigoted.

Granted, prevention should be targeted where a disease is most prevalent. But that's pretty straightforward..

Date: 2006/04/12 10:33:38, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
I doubt that gay people are biologically predisposed to immoral behavior either. But for whatever reason, they engage in said behavior at an alarming rate. And since I don't buy the "discrimination made me do it" angle, that leaves culture as the leading candidate.

Your implications can be subtle, you know? First, you imply that gay behavior is immoral, but of course morality is quite arbitrary. Dubbing some behavior YOU don't like as "immoral" doesn't mean it IS immoral, or that this is "evidence". It just means you don't like it and you're trying to justify your preferences with pejorative terms. Naughty naughty.

Second, you imply that gay people have more sex, or maybe you mean sex with more different partners, or whatever your notion of "immoral" covers here. I don't know if this is helpful. My own experience, admittedly anecdotal, is that SOME people have sex with a great many partners and are always on the make, while others are comfortably monogomous. Since I met my current spouse about 18 years ago, I haven't been tempted by anyone else. I'm not that unusual.

In other words, I'm saying there's good cause to think that promiscuity is much more correlated with individual preferences than with membership in some particular group like the gay community. Do you know differently?

And this leaves "culture as the leading candidate" without visible means of support. I'm not sure there is an identifiable "promiscuity" culture, or a "loose women" culture, or a "skirt-chaser" culture. Is there?

Quote
I meant that these population groups have much higher levels of the disease. Certainly, some of it is due to the difficulty of transmitting the virus through vaginal sex (less tearing, etc.). But that's only part of it, and doesn't explain the African heterosexual rate. Or the African-American het rate for that matter. Perhaps black men are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior? Doesn't seem likely, but who knows.

With all due respect, you seem to be struggling very hard to notice the obvious, and not quite seeing it. I'm not going to claim that African cultures generally are more broadly promiscuous; data on these matters are very hard to collect reliably. What is NOT hard to collect are data on levels of Africal public and private health availability. In Nigeria (to pick someplace pretty much at random) how hard is it to be tested and/or treated for HIV? How difficult is it to buy condoms? How likely are people to seek this sort of help? What is the ratio of doctors to population?

Quote
Unless society denies that certain behaviors/cultures are more likely to lead to the disease. Or a Marxist media tries to hide the truth.

Giggle. Uh, right. Certainly the US media have not denied that HIV has been most prevalent in gay communities. But I do think it's just Bad Luck that HIV got its start in those communities, because there IS a great deal of hostility toward them nationwide, much of it religion-oriented. If HIV had by chance begun in upper class circles, we'd have seen a LOT more attention paid a LOT sooner.

Unless you are going to argue that upper class adolescents and young adults have a lot less sex, as opposed to a lot more ability to keep the side-effects under wraps.

Quote
Male homosexuality -> more likely to engage in promiscuous sex -> lack of concern for a sexual partner's welfare -> sociopathic behavior

But perhaps this sequence is an artifact of something you'd rather not consider? I can see how male homosexuals may be more promiscuous - the threat of unwanted pregnancy is not there, and the male sexual response is a lot easier to trigger. I very very seriously doubt that homosexuals' concern for a partner's welfare are biologically distinct from anyone else. This claim falls squarely into the "niggers are lazy" category, somewhere someone shouldn't go who makes as big a deal of "the evidence" as you do.

Back in the distant past, I was once informed AFTER sex, by a nice white woman I met in the church choir, that she had an STD. But she wasn't about to let me know until she got what she wanted. At least she told me! Was she a sociopath, or just self-centered? Or is this self-centered behavior when you or I do it, and sociopathic when homosexuals do it, because we are just weak, whereas THEY are *depraved*?

Date: 2006/04/12 10:39:13, Link
Author: Flint
Faid:

Quote
can you tell me, in your words, what makes you think that the first correlation in your hypothesis (Male homosexuality -> more likely to engage in promiscuous sex) is valid?

I suggested a couple of possibilities, and so I'm willing to grant this for the sake of argument. But the rest of the sequence I can't find any case for that doesn't rest on foregone conclusions.

Date: 2006/04/12 11:02:49, Link
Author: Flint
Faid:

Quote
I just believe that the reasons for this are not related with homosexuality itself, but rather with the very act of discrimination against it.

I'm also interested in what you are saying. Are you implying that "sexually active teenagers, or even young bachelor heterosexual adults" do more of this stuff than homosexuals because they are *even more* discriminated against? Really?

I just don't see discrimination relating to sexual behavior in any direct or even indirect way I can see. So your claim confuses me.

Date: 2006/04/12 12:01:19, Link
Author: Flint
Faid:

I remain unconvinced. If we trust Ghost's information (and I'm not rejecting it reflexively), it tells us that gays are generally more promiscuous than heterosexuals. But it doesn't tell us that discrimination explains this in the case of gays, whereas other factors explain it in the case of different groups or categories.

Perhaps the simple impossibility of conception explains a great deal of this behavior. I always ask of myself: If I were single, if I had access to a great many partners, if I weren't in danger of becoming a parent, if I were young, healthy and randy, what posture might I adopt? I can't guarantee I wouldn't feel "Why not?" and just go for it. If I were aware of serious and prevalent disease, if I noticed a lot of those in my cohort becoming sick and dying, I'd probably take precautions. Most of the time.

This still leaves what I consider an important issue: any relatively different value placed by individuals on a committed relationship. So Ghost's statistics indicate that even "mostly monogamous" relationships are rare in the gay community. Of course, I've seen statistics indicating that no more than 10% of heterosexual married couples anonymously claim neither partner had sex outside the marriage since they married.

The implication here is that humans aren't particularly faithful, sexually speaking. Humans like variety and novelty. Whether gays like it MORE than straights, I wouldn't know how to assess.

Ghost:

I'm fairly certain that access to useful medical attention of all kinds (condoms, doctors, even correct information) is MUCH more difficult in sub-Saharan Africa, yet I notice you simply tuned out the main point I made. Is it any wonder you have trouble seeing this?

Quote
If the STD was very serious, then yes, she qualifies as a sociopath. If it was treatable or nonserious, then she was just a jerk. Not that the tramp has my sympathy.

Well, let's just say you and I have VERY different levels of tolerance and forgiveness. I admit I have problems trying to hold others to standards I'm not sure if I meet myself. My house may not be entirely glass, but it does have windows.

Quote
No, I'm sure phrases like "Hitting bitches" and "wearing a tramp stamp" are products of my fevered imagination.

You aren't answering what I asked, though. Maybe I phrased it poorly. I agree these people exist. I was asking whether they *as a group* represented a distinct subculture, with all that entails. To me, these are simply the far ends of bell curves. In general, we think of heterosexuals and homosexuals as being fairly bimodal; not a lot of crossover (though there is some), whereas the descriptions you put forth here seem to refer to *relative proclivities*, along a fairly continuous spectrum where lines are drawn much more arbitrarily. Sex with N partners a year where N rises toward one end of the curve, and you can pick a number beyond which you consider immoral. To me, this is qualitatively different.

Date: 2006/04/12 12:29:53, Link
Author: Flint
Sigh. "Facts" are hard to come by in an area explored by sociology, itself the softest of "sciences", especially when the desire to discover given patterns is intensely strong. I think Ghost is correct that those whose preferences are opposite his tend to construct their investigations around finding these preferences in the data. I think Ghost is disingenuous in carefully avoiding the fact that those who agree with him are AT LEAST as passionate about supporting their own foregone conclusions.

Quote
it shouldn't be that hard to find an objective comparative study of sexual behavior in homo- and heterosexual adults.

Oh yeah? I respectfully submit that "objective" in this context is indistinguishable from "agrees with my preferences." It is impossible NOT to have a bias in this area. Even if the collected statistics are meticulously accurate, the conclusions drawn from them are always slanted. And I don't trust the statistics: Tell me what you want them to imply, and I can construct an "objective" method of ratifying your conclusions.

So we look at pretty much the same evidence, and some of us see normal human variation and shrug our shoulders, while others see social collapse or moral threats and are aghast. Even if both parties agree on the facts, this happens.

Date: 2006/04/12 15:00:58, Link
Author: Flint
Faid:

Quote
The thing is, everything can be (and usually is) interpreted subjectively. When conducting a study using the proper scientific method, though, it's important not to let our subjective opinion intefere with procuring the data -or distort them. That is bad science.

Simultaneously, I think this is important and I think I'm not going to be able to explain why.

First, let's stipulate that we can get accurate answers to any question we ask. In other words, nobody is fudging any data in any way.

But what questions should we ask? This is critical. The questions always determine the answers. Do we really know how to ask "objective" questions? Even Darwin scoffed at this notion, saying no observation was of any use unless it was for or against some viewpoint.

Now, I grant that the sources Ghost cites are likely to ask the same sort of question Ghost asks: how can we most clearly illustrate that our society is becoming decadent and that homosexuals are a scourge? This is an inherent problem with sociological issues: We invariably say: Here are the conclusions, how can we best demonstrate that they are correct? Data are potentially infinite; we MUST pick and choose. What guides our choice in sociological areas if not the desire to support (as Darwin said) "some view"?

So long as data are accurate, then, we have good science. We have no choice but to be selective, which means we need some criteria for selection. If you and Ghost have different views and select different data necessary to support your respective views, which of you is slanting and spinning more?

Homosexuals do what they do. The attitudes and policies society imposes on them surely influence their behavior. The question isn't whether this is the case, but HOW their (and our) behavior *ought to be* manipulated through public policy. And this depends on your view: we will surely adopt different policy if we decide on the one hand that homosexuality is normal, and homosexuals should be treated no different from heterosexuals, or on the other hand if we decide that homosexuality is *wrong*, and steps should be taken, if not to eradicate it, at least to stifle and discourage homosexual behavior as much as possible.

So we're back to the sociological inevitable: our notion of what's right and proper determines what data we consider relevant and important. Sociological studies don't *reach* conclusions, they *support* conclusions.

Date: 2006/04/12 15:56:24, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
before I go, I'd really like to see some evidence offered for the liberal null hypothesis of equal behavioral outcomes absent discrimination.

Don't be silly. How can anyone present any solid evidence of how things would be if only things were different? I take the normative position that social forces DO influence individual behavior in important ways. But how can I produce evidence of widespread *different* behavior under conditions that do not obtain?

All I can say is, I do not consider homosexual consenting behavior any sort of social threat. We DO have what may well be a worst-case situation in the Real World, and except for STDs (which are becoming increasingly homogenous) I don't see any real problems. Do you?

(Maybe I should add that we DO have a heterosexual corresponding situation: rock and movie stars, and to some degree well-known athletes. And sure enough, the pattern among these healthy, good-looking young people is *incessant* sex (almost entirely with the opposite sex, as well); some of these people have notorious appetites. Are we going to suggest that musical talent, acting ability, or athletic prowess predisposes whoever possesses one of these to be 'decadent'? The pattern is pretty clear: all that prevents the average young person from indulging to continuous satiation is simple opportunity or its lack.)

Date: 2006/04/13 07:52:04, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
You do realise that you've conceded the untestability of the central assuption underlying liberal policy?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. I personally think your articulation of that assumption is somewhat different from mine. In fact, I think you have been barking up the wrong tree for some number of posts now. So I'll try again: identifiable groups are identifiable for being systematically different in some way. You have been attempting to document how the homosexual community is different in ways you consider important.

But this misses the point, or at least it misses the point I consider important. Not easy to explain, I'm afraid. Consider slavery. It was economical in the South. The non-slavery condition hadn't been tried. Slavery was opposed on moral grounds, not on behavioral grounds. Yes, presumably qualified scientists could have documented with full statistical 4-part harmony that slave behavior was different, and (from a conservative viewpoint) represensible and decadent, not to mention unhealthful, unsanitary, and so on. And presumably, conservatives like yourself could have justified continuing if not even strengthening existing social policies on these grounds. But those grounds weren't the relevant grounds for objecting to slavery.

I think it's much the same with homosexuality. It's a normative position, not an evidence-based position, that legally imposed inequality is *wrong*, and that discrimination (meaning, different treatment for reasons unrelated to the treatment itself) is *bad*. Speculation as to whether homosexual behavior might change if legal policies change, in my opinion, is irrelevant. Denial of basic civil rights (like the right to marry), simply because the people being denied make us uncomfortable to think about, should IMO be debated on philosophical grounds. Is such discrimination a Good Thing? Defend or reject.

Quote
But not to fear: as it happens, I don't agree with you. I think that there are ways to measure the degree of prejudice that exists in a society (surveys, etc.) and then correlate those levels with achievement metrics for minority groups.

If your claim here is that the prejudice can't be eliminated by fiat, I agree. If your claim is that homosexuals will continue to behave in ways you dislike even if prejudice vanishes, I agree also. If your claim is that civil rights should be denied on any basis other than we *prefer to do so*, then I don't agree.

I'm not sure what you include in the category of "antisocial acts." Failure to exercise safe sexual practices? OK, I can see that. Anything else?

Date: 2006/04/13 09:27:38, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Any attempt to quash a group's liberty is misguided, even if society is harmed as a result (which, of course, may not happen). Is this summary correct?

Essentially, yes. The normative position, once again, is that liberty *defines and informs* that society, which if denied to groups arbitrarily is not a free society. In this sense, society CANNOT be harmed as a result. It may become more pleasant for some and less pleasant for others, of course.

I understand (just to try to defuse any sidetracking) that *absolute* freedom is both practically and philosophically not feasible for any society, since a society is by definition interactive; it's people continuously transacting with one another. My position is that we can hold out individual liberty as a worthy goal while still recognizing the importance of careful regulation. So what I do is regard the Golden Rule as central; a just society emerges from individuals following this rule much as a market emerges from individual exchanges of goods and services. And accordingly, I must accept the loss of the freedom to do what I don't want done to me. It's highly reciprocal.

Quote
Anyone who wishes to limit this right to certain groups must argue from philosophical, rather than empirical, grounds.

I'm not sure if empirical grounds make much sense. I'm also not sure if I've seen any. Maybe you can do a better job of getting through to me. I've seem multiple cases of people saying homosexuals can have 'civil unions' legally identical to marriages, but they can't be *called* marriages, despite no legal difference, because that would imply some sort of ecclesiastical blessing objectionable enough so that some churches are experiencing Yet Another Schism over it. I admit this is a blind spot for me. I just don't get it.

Date: 2006/04/13 09:39:29, Link
Author: Flint
Russell:

Quote
(1) trying to change someone's sexual orientation is an exercise in futility

My reading is that while this is entirely true (despite some programs misrepresenting their results), it's not the primary goal of Ghost's brand of conservatives. They just want homosexual *behavior* to go away. Those who would desire to engage in it we can tolerate so long as they *don't do it*, however much they want to.


Quote
(2) persecution, discrimination, and intolerance are unfortunate characteristics of small-minded people I don't want anything to do with, and certainly should not be enshrined as  government policy.

Without calling people names, I think (I hope) what you're saying here is that "persecution, discrimination and intolerance" are *bad things* a priori. They're bad because WE SAY they're bad. EVEN IF these things in practice might increase society's net comfort level.

Quote
(3) sex education should be honest, frank, and complete. It should include all measures - not just encouraging abstinence - available to reduce risk.

Granted that our predominant "pretend sex doesn't exist and maybe our children won't rediscover it" approach has been a failure. My understanding is that opposition to the kind of program you espouse here is, we must admit sex happens to talk about how to do it right. And that this admission implies tacit permission to fuck like rabbits. And that such behavior is 'decadent' because some historical interpretations indicate it ill serves the "generic human society" used as a baseline.

Date: 2006/04/13 12:36:33, Link
Author: Flint
Russell:

Since I find much of what Ghost says sensible and not vaporous, I'd like to hear your perspective as well. I'm quite curious about this stuff.

I do agree that terms like "Marxist" or "liberal" when used as pejoratives divorced from their original meanings just muddies the waters.

Quote
it puzzles me that our vaporous friend would regard T-diddy as a his natural ally in "rationality" when he's the only participant that holds the opposite view

I'm not sure he does view TD as his ally, except (as you say) insofar as TD rejects the same basic tenets for the same underlying reasons. But TD is utterly irrational, incapable of following even simple arguments. Ghost is much more sophisticated in rationalizing the same policy positions held for equally involuntary reasons.  Intelligence is no more defense against creationism than education.

Quote
What I'm really saying here is that particularly in the case of sexuality, persecution, discrimination and intolerance are not only characteristics of small-mindedness, they're profoundly counterproductive, if the goal really is to minimize anti-social and self-destructive behavior.

Well, so long as we're aware we're using self-serving terminology! We need some baseline here.  I propose that engaging in excessively unhealthy behavior leading frequently to dying young is self-destructive. I'm not sure we have a solid definition of what 'anti-social' means in this context. So I'll ask:  If homosexuals were to engage in meticulously safe sexual practices (using condoms, undergoing regular medical checkups, being voluntarily celibate if HIV positive, etc.) but otherwise changed none of their behavior, would that satisfy your goal of eliminating 'anti-social' behavior?

Faid:

Quote
The issue is (and I already pointed it out): Why would a homosexual be more reckless, careless, inconciderate of his partner and himself than a heterosexual under the same conditions?

I pointed out a few posts back that heterosexuals under the same conditions act exactly the same. Apparently finding members of the same sex arousing changes nothing else I'm aware of - young people still like lots of sex with lots of partners, are pretty irresponsible and spontaneous about it, and immerse themselves in promiscuous sexual activity whenever circumstances permit.

When AIDS in San Francisco reached epidemic levels among the gay community, these people started being pretty cautious and paranoid about it. Sure enough, infection rates dropped dramatically.  At which point, the "I'm probably safe" mindset kicked back in, and infection rates went back up. Other than perhaps (but not guaranteed!;)) saving your life, 'safe sex' has nothing but drawbacks.

Date: 2006/04/13 13:17:01, Link
Author: Flint
stephen:

Amen. When I think WAY back to high school, about the only thing that prevented ANY of the girls in the school from being potential sex partners is that they weren't interested in my desires, and I had no clue how to change their minds.

Had I been homosexual, I suspect the problem would have been very different: the potential partners would have been willing, but identifying them without risking truly devastating social consequences would have been intimidating.

Now, imagine NO barriers. Fat city! Oh, AIDS? At that age, we're immortal.

Date: 2006/04/13 16:07:08, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Something just doesn't compute here. I suspect that's why most of the points I make vanish without response...

Quote
And since the gay community will remain insulated given their relatively small numbers, relaxing societal taboos will simply expose free-thinking straight men (as well as their wives, girlfriends, and club tramps) to the virus.

This is a disturbing allegation. You seem to be saying that societal taboos are what prevent homosexuals with HIV from engaging in heterosexual activities. Are you really trying to say this? Are you saying that "normal" (i.e. free-thinking) straight people are seriously prevented from engaging in same-sex activities by societal taboos? Really? If this is what you are trying to say, just come out and SAY it.

I would argue that societal taboos don't so much prevent the behavior as prevent the *admission* of the behavior. I was well aware that "nice" girls got pregnant at significant rates in my middle-class white high school, and "got sick" long enough to get under-the-table abortions. Social taboos didn't change the behavior, only the way that behavior was handled and represented.

Quote
Hetero men have a natural brake on their worst impulses: women*. Which is a huge reason why hetero relationships are healthier, IMHO.

Please. These are not "hetero mens'" impulses, these are NORMAL HUMAN impulses. Hetero women without de facto brakes act the same way. And these are not "worst" impulses, these are NORMAL impulses.

So OK, you are arguing that a "good" society acts AGAINST normal human impulses, since these lead to "bad" consequences, such as STDs and unwanted pregnancies and perhaps undesirable emotional situations. And I can agree with all that.

Now, I should think the relevant question should be, how can we accommodate NORMAL (which you call "worst", significantly enough) human impulses so as to minimize the total net undesirable side-effects?

But I see that we can't really focus on the topic you SAY you wish to discuss, when you load the dice at every opportunity. Your use of words like "moral", "worst", and "healthy" make any useful discussion nearly impossible. Imagine if I emulated your technique, and deemed heterosexual relations "sick" and "unhealthy" and "immoral". How soon would you abandon any effort to fight through my deliberately unhelpful terminology to try to discuss the actual topic?

Date: 2006/04/14 08:25:36, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Have you been tempted to experiment? Just curious.

Quote
I'd like to get a common agreement on a few facts (such as gay promiscuity) first. You can see why that would be appropriate, no?

Uh, no, I can't. Maybe I don't understand what your policy goals are here. Even if we grant that gays are more promiscuous, that gays are certainly no less likely than straights to be irresponsible about disease (I see no reason why gays and straights would differ on this at all), and that at least in the US, AIDS just happened to get introduced into the gay community first, what have we achieved?

Are you saying that IF these things are true, THEN laws against gay marriage somehow become justified? Or just what are you saying? You keep talking about social taboos, but I don't understand your purpose. Are you saying that people are less likely to BE homosexual because of these taboos? I seriously doubt it. So maybe you're trying to say that if taboos drive homosexual activity underground, AIDS would spread into the straight community less rapidly?

I also seriously doubt that's the case, but even if it is the case, are you now saying that IF gay marriage becomes legal, this policy change would (I guess simply by implying that homosexuality is normal and not evil) encourage straights to take foolish risks? Seems kind of far-fetched.

But let's grant that it's true anyway, and that recognizing homosexuality as being normal as left-handedness and no more reprehensible, would soon lead to the explosive spread of a disease taboos are keeping in check. We're still back to trying to justify denial of rights to classes of citizens. Yes, allowing people freedom to live more as they choose to live, ipso facto gives them the freedom to abuse this flexibility. If society were a LOT more repressive, we could trade liberty for safety to some notable degree. Is this a Good Thing.

So back to the top: No, your statistics are not relevant and not appropriate. I suppose I could gin up a bunch of statistics in support of a position that people born with certain problems (maybe Down's syndrome, etc.) should be euthanized for the good of society. After all, most such people are just burdens. Eliminate them and we would ALL be better off.

Now, would my statistics really matter? Even if they were accurate, would they matter? Would they be "appropriate"? You are missing the point here.

Date: 2006/04/14 09:49:54, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Also, not recognising a ceremony is completely different from advocating murder or genocide. Boooooo!

But I don't think this is what I was doing. Let's rephrase it: extend the time limit for legalized abortion by, say, one hour. Past societies (even ones we admire today) have done this, doing the ancient equivalent of tossing those born with certain birth defects into the dumpster. I have seen allegations (I have no way of verifying them) that some doctors and midwives tend to "discover" that such defects cause a lot of stillborns.

But OK, the marriage issue is much more along the lines of a vindictive hassle factor. For about $10,000 in legal fees and a tall stack of special powers of attorney and other forms, a homosexual couple can replicate nearly all of the obligations and protections a hetero couple can get for $25. Some have actually done this. My own employer treats same-sex couples as same-as-marriage in terms of default insurance beneficiaries and in every other respect. They have found that *advertising* that a same-sex partner is indistinguishable from a legal spouse in every possible way, helps them attract and keep good employees!

Quote
But my argument depends, at least in part, on certain facts being accepted.

I guess I'm not clear on what your argument is. So far, the closest I can come is that denial of equal legal rights *might* protect you from disease a little better. Is that really your argument? If so, OK, for me that's a bad trade.

At the risk of sounding exactly like thordaddy, my position is that such discrimination is *wrong* simply because I WANT it to be wrong. Facts don't matter.

Date: 2006/04/14 10:55:20, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I'll give you credit for single-minded. I don't think we're talking about disease at all, and you go on and on about disease as though this were the actual topic. Why?

I already noted that gays behave no more recklessly than straights *given the same access and opportunity*. Being homosexual seems uncorrelated with sex drive. So are you saying that we should attempt to minimize their opportunities? What ARE you saying?

Quote
So yes, civil liberties do depend on facts to a certain degree. And this will be one prong of my argument.

This was also addressed earlier, but I'll concede the point. When we're talking about discriminatory policies, we do need to be careful that the discrimination bears some direct relationship to its purpose. We draft men presumably because they make better soldiers. We specify age limits for such things as driving, voting, insurance, because presumably (or in the case of insurance, statistically) younger people are less capable of handling the responsibility. We might disagree as to when adulthood *ought* to start, without disagreeing that before some age, children are simply not capable of handling adult tasks.

So in this respect, you're right. If denying the right to marry is based on the factual grounds that gays *abuse marriage*, and we can support this, you have a case. But I don't see how reckless sexual behavior is diminished by denying the right to marry. Can you show that it is?

Otherwise, you seem to be saying "Denial based on *directly relevant behavior* happens, therefore denial based on *nothing relevant* is ALSO justified." I don't believe you're willing to stand on that argument.

Date: 2006/04/14 11:55:46, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Earlier, IV drug users were identified as a population probably even more prone to AIDS than homosexuals. Interestingly, I've seen no suggestion even implied indirectly that these people (IF they are heterosexual) should be discriminated against, or denied civil rights unrelated to their drug practices.

So this thread continues an elaborate dance, with most of us trying to get Ghost to understand that he STARTS with ordinary homophobia, and constructs a superstructure of "evidence-based" but inconsistent and irrelevant rationalizations for why his dislikes should be institutionalized by society.

I've long observed that the Golden Rule is amazingly difficult to follow when the status quo favors the rule-breaker. Suddenly there's a whole wealth of studies showing why MY rights are more important than yours. All very scientific, of course.

Date: 2006/04/14 13:14:47, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
Unless and until someone can show statistics that gay people are actively going around raping straight people and giving them diseases, I frankly don't want to hear statistically-based rationalizations for why they should be discriminated against.

Does the aphorism "lies, damned lies, and statistics" mean anything to anyone here?

Yes, but it's beside the point. EVEN IF homosexuals "are actively going around raping straight people and giving them diseases", this is STILL no reason to discriminate against homosexuality. It's an excellent reason to prosecute those who commit actual crimes, which is something entirely different. Rapists should be punished. Sexual orientation is irrelevant.

Ghost's statistics are a pure smokescreen. He doesn't like gay people. He probably thinks just BEING homosexual is a sin, or otherwise immoral. Acting on one's sexual drives is only OK if those drives are the same as Ghost's, otherwise they need to be discouraged.

There is simply no valid reason for deny civil rights to anyone who has done nothing to deserve it. There MUST be some tie between the deprivation and the activity that is closer than anything Ghost has proposed. You have a right to own and (in most states) carry a gun UNLESS you misuse that gun. But saying homosexuals shouldn't be permitted to marry is like saying homosexuals shouldn't be permitted to carry guns. The punishment doesn't fit the offense.

And that's why it's after-the-fact. Ghost, as I said, starts with his conclusion (gay is bad), and finds nearly any "justification" persuasive, not because the justification meets any rational criteria of applicability but because the conclusion (gay is bad) is *true by definition*.

And on the other side, I (and others here) are arguing that "gay is bad" is false also by definition. So this really is a battle of competing definitions, not a battle of facts of any sort. For me, it's a matter of taking the Golden Rule as a priori proper and irrefutable. Ghost dances around and around this rule, because following it would violate his phobias, and ADMITTING that he can't follow it would violate his nominal religious beliefs. So what do you do when you can't follow the rule and can't admit this? You *redirect the focus* to somewhere irrelevant to the discussion, and KEEP it there. You may not even realize you're doing it.

Date: 2006/04/14 13:50:45, Link
Author: Flint
thordaddy,

Since you address me directly...

Quote
Since when can't "homosexuals" marry in the US?  You're confusing being able to marry (which gays can at a Church that will marry them) and being sanctioned by the state.

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. First, I'm talking about marriage between people of the same sex. Yes, I know homosexuals can marry members of the opposite sex, but that's kind of beside the point.

Someone counted over 10,000 US laws and regulations that make distinctions based on State-sanctioned marriages. It is these distinctions that gays are concerned about, not whether some priest performs some ceremony. I spent $20 and 10 minutes to get married, down at the local courthouse. Just signed a couple of forms, got a certificate printed off, and went home married. THAT'S all gays are asking.

Quote
You don't see the manipulation.  Gays want both the government to get out of their business AND also help in advancing their agenda.  They want to have their cake and eat it too.

Not so, and in fact backwards. By refusing to guarantee the obligations and privileges of marriage to gays, the state is actively interfering in their business. They want the government to BUTT OUT and let them live the same way you and I do. Demanding equality isn't having your cake and eating it too, it's just demanding equal treatment in every way. Equal.

Quote
You also seem to cast aside hundreds of years of history and what this means as it pertains to "homosexuality."

I don't know what you're referring to here. I'm asking that people follow the golden rule. Why is that so hard?  

Quote
You are taking the extreme position that there is NO legitimate reason to discriminate against "homosexuality."  NONE!  NOT ONE EXCEPTION!

Yes, of course. Discrimination is wrong. Bigotry is wrong. If any individual commits a crime, they should be subjected to the law against that crime. But sexual orientation should be irrelevant. Why would you wish to discriminate against someone who has committed no crimes? Just for sheer small-mindedness?

Quote
This is an extreme and radical position compared to those that say there are specific rationales for discriminating against "homosexuality" especially in the areas of health and social cohesion.

No, that's a different issue. I have no problem recognizing and taking steps to counter health threats. I see no social cohesion issues EXCEPT that certain bigots are causing trouble by being intolerant. But just being homosexual is not a health threat nor is it a social cohesion issue. You are barking up the wrong tree. The enemy is the disease, not the person suffering from it.

Date: 2006/04/14 15:21:24, Link
Author: Flint
thordaddy:

Quote
Exactly, this ISN'T about getting "married."  This is about DEMANDING recognition from state and mainstreaming homosexuality.  Homosexual activists are turning the meaning of marriage on its head to get what they want.  Go to the liberal pastor and exchange vows if they want to get married

No. Gays want equality under the law. No special privileges, no special deprivations. Just ordinary equality. The are not asking for anything you or I don't already have. They want marriage to mean the same thing it means to you and me. Identically. No differences AT ALL.

You don't seem to understand that we're not talking about religion here. We're talking about the legal regulations of the State. Nothing else.

Quote
Why do you need the state to enforce the obligations and privileges of "marriage?"

Because it means A LOT in probate court.

Quote
Are you actually equating traditional marriage to "homosexual" marriage?
This question makes assumptions I don't accept. I'm talking about a state-sanctioned marriage between two people, and all of the 10,000+ state rules and regulations that apply to this condition. The sex of the two people involved is not relevant. The regulations are important.

Quote
Are you saying that society has no legitimate rationale for discriminating between the two?

Correct.

Quote
What of adult incestual marriages?

Since you ask, I'm undecided. Breeding between close relatives is very common (for example, entire large populations of rats on some pacific islands have originated from a single pregnant female rat washed ashore). Social taboos against incest derive from the observation that genetic traits tend to combine in ways both VERY good and VERY bad. We've decided as a policy decision to forego the good to avoid the bad. Since laws against don't represent terminal inconveniece to anyone, I'm willing to go along with them.

Quote
What of bigamy and polygamy?

These sorts of relationships, by my reading, tend to be more unstable than 2-person marriages, which are themselves at lot less stable than many would prefer. By observation SOME of them work very well. However, once again, prohibition of marriages involving more than two people doesn't make marriage *impossible* for anyone.

This seems to be a point you are missing. Let's say you wish to marry. You don't want a multi-person marriage, you don't want to marry a close relative, you only want to get married AT ALL. You have a commitment to a partner committed to you. Should the state REQUIRE you to stay officially single (in terms of those 10,000 regulations)?

Quote
Hundreds of years of tradition has made it clear as to why we don't equate traditional marriage and "homosexual" marriage.  You simply throw it all away and act as if it never existed.  Again, what are your arguments against ANY ADULT UNION (sexual or not) and its demand to be recognized by the state?

Good question. Tradition doesn't maket clear WHY we haven't extended state protection to same-sex marriage, it only indicates that we have done so. By this same token, slavery continues to exist as a common practice throughout much of the world. Did the US make a mistake in abolishing such a common practice? If so, should we reinstate it?

My position here is, let's give it a try. If it causes no problems (and it might even alleviate some problems), then the experiment works. If it leads to real problems (like prohibition did), then we learned our lesson and we won't do it again. But we won't know until we try.

Quote
Again, what are your arguments against ANY ADULT UNION (sexual or not) and its demand to be recognized by the state?

Actually, I don't have any objection to how anyone wishes to live. This is somewhat of a different subject, though you may not realize it. Generic union agreements have both benefits and costs. The costs tend to be paid when the relationship terminates. Who gets the property? Who has custody of children? Who inherits how much from whom in case of a death? I should think these details would have to be hammered out over the course of time.

Quote
If a clean homosexual (gay male) discriminates against another homosexual he finds an attraction to because of an unknown HIV status, is this wrong?  You are claiming that discrimination is wrong and therefore guilting this homosexual to play dice with his life

Uh, what? I admit I'm flat guessing what you might mean here. But let's say I as a heterosexual male discriminates against some woman because, uh, I can't tell, Because I have HIV? Because I don't know if she has HIV? What does "discriminate" mean in this case? Hey, if I like her, I'll use a condom.

Quote
If homosexuality doesn't cause social cohesion concerns then why are we having this discussion?

Good question. Certainly *I* don't see any social cohesion concerns. Where I work, the workforce is overwhelmingly male (we're engineers). There are maybe 200 males and 10 females there. Are any of these males homosexual? How would I know? Are any of them living with other males in a sexual relationship? How would I know? Would any such conditions change anything I'm aware of? No, of course not. Where's the problem?

Quote
The enemy is the BEHAVIOR.  The BEHAVIOR is what puts the "homosexual" (gay male) in great risk of AIDS, STDs and early mortality.

Yes, I agree, with respect to STDs. I accept Ghost's statistics that, through sheer opportunity and some details of the sexual practices, the gay community faces an unusually large health threat. The behavior isn't going to change substantially, but nonetheless the health threat can be reduced. In fact, it HAS been reduced.

Quote
And, if the science points to a genetically-based predisposition that is manifested by an encouraging environment, then why are we teaching young children the "normalcy" of gayness and homosexuality in particular?

Nothing genetic about this. Given equal opportunity, humans behave in the same way. ALL humans do this. There is no differential "predisposition" to engage in sex. EVERYONE has this "predisposition". And we'd #### well better, or our species would vanish.

I seriously doubt that homosexuality is entirely genetic, but even if it is, it happens. Homosexuality is like left-handedness. It happens, it has always happened, its incidence DOES NOT DIFFER whether the society accepts it or stigmatizes it. Homosexuality is as normal as left-handedness. That is, absolutlely normal. Are you saying we should LIE about this?

Quote
Why are we playing dice with some children's lives?

This question is nearly impossible to interpret, so I'll again have to guess. Sexual orientation starts to show up in children about the age of 2. Which means, it's already formed very very early. We can't change this.

So how are we "playing dice"? By admitting that sexual orientation happens, and isn't alterable? This is true. I admit your question baffles me. What do you mean?

Well, I'll try to think like a bigot thinks. IF we teach our children that homosexuality is a choice, that those who choose it are sinful idiots, that if we let the devil play with their sex drives, they'll die of horrible disease, that it's their fault if they stray from OUR preferences, then we have someone to blame. And those children born homosexual, faced with this rather vicious training, become celibate neurotics, then we have WON? Is that what you mean?

Sheesh. How about if we just address the disease instead?

Date: 2006/04/14 15:39:23, Link
Author: Flint
We do have some basis for suspicion here. Steroids permit the development of muscular power independent of the ability of bones, ligaments, tendons etc. to accomodate that power. The result has been frequent injuries very slow and difficult to heal, even after surgery.

Steroid use also has been very strongly linked with other health issues, and heavy users have an abysmal life expectancy. But these observations apply to people who used a LOT of steroids for a long time.

I myself have used steroids. I tend to suffer occasional (every 3-4 years) bursitis in my shoulders. Usually, I can counter this with regular workouts with small (10-pound) weights, daily. When these workouts don't lead to improvement, I've taken "cocktail" injections in my shouder - anti-inflammatories, steroids, pain killers. Works great. I've had three of these in my life.

In sports, overuse of steroids is a deal with the devil, as we've seen. You'll get one or two seasons of *astounding* performance. After which, you'll suffer a debilitating and perhaps career-ending injury, and later you'll die young. Was it worthwhile?

Imagine a drug (or whatever) that you could take at the age of 20, that would make you irresistable to any woman. But after 5 years, you'd be a vegetable. Would you do it? Would you think well, I'll only do it THIS year, then stop?

Date: 2006/04/14 16:29:04, Link
Author: Flint
stevestory:

Sometimes I think what I post goes straight into a black hole. Steroids are VERY HELPFUL for certain types of injuries. I'm talking about normal life here. Steroids are VERY helpful to your health for these particular problems. As always, the problem isn't the steroids, it's the abuse.

Steroids have been absolutely beneficial (if not essential) for my normal health.

Date: 2006/04/14 16:45:03, Link
Author: Flint
stevestory:

OK, we agree on this. Steroids have no reputation as generic heath-enhancers (such as enjoyed by balanced diets, calorie control, regular exercise, etc.) They can be specifically targeted against certaint types of injuries or problems, on a short-term (until healed) basis. Hormone therapy generally has very limited applicability.

Date: 2006/04/14 17:18:51, Link
Author: Flint
stevestory:

Quote
Yeah. I'd say like 45 mins of cardio and 45 mins of weights every day is what I'd do if I was trying to get in great shape.

Sadly, this is very age-dependent. At my age, I do about 1 hour of cardio (a 4-mile walk up and down steep hills) and 30 minutes of weights every day. I am NOT getting into great shape, I'm only fighting a losing battle against the rate I go downhill.

but yeah, the gallon of beer a day doesn't help. Which doesn't slow that part of my daily routine down at all. I happen to be partial to Sierra Nevada Porter.

Date: 2006/04/14 17:35:41, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Is this not science?  Why has this been discredited?

Two separate questions here. Can humans, sufficiently organized and of common mind, breed themselves for certain traits considered desirable, or alternatively breed themselves to minimize traits not wanted? Well, yes, I suppose we could if we tried.

Presumably, we could also genetically engineer ourselves (assuming we have the techniques and knowledge) for similar purposes. The first approach is mostly passive, the second is active, but the goals are the same.

Would it "work"? I suppose it would, again presuming near-universal agreement about the goals and methods.

There are societies (China and India come to mind) where sexual selection of embryos have led to imbalences in sexual distribution (too many men), which in turn are causing social accomodations not anticipated beforehand. I imagine if we had much finer discrimination of embryo characteristics (i.e, skin color, sexual orientation, etc.) we could selectively make matters much worse than they are.

The basic question has been posed long since: Would a Congress of gorillas, given this capability, have chosen humans? Would they have abandoned greater strength, superior ability to live in the jungle, better protection against the elements, etc.? Given universal agreement and determination, humans could breed for desired characteristics (within some limitations, since breeding doesn't seem to affect some characteristics). Would the result be *better* people? I certainly wouldn't want to pass that judgment.

Date: 2006/04/14 17:38:26, Link
Author: Flint
unMark:

Yes, the Struldbrugs. Swift saw the problems long ago.

Date: 2006/04/14 17:50:56, Link
Author: Flint
We also retain the option of terminating our lives at any time. The question of how old we NEED to be to make this decision, shows which question we are begging.

Human newborns are notoriously useless. It's a couple of YEARS before humans can even feed themselves, even when conditions stack the deck so they can hardly avoid it. Similar long periods of time are required before even the most primitive cognitive abilities start to appear - to associate vision with objects, words with meaning, etc.

We might reasonably argue that we become *actual persons* at the age where our cumulative experiences are sufficient to allow us to resist the sort of idiotic religious indoctrination that has permanently incapacitated thordaddy.

Date: 2006/04/15 10:28:56, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
How do you know that my opinions are a "mere smokescreen".

Because I gave you credit for intelligence. You are as obviously working backwards to rationalize your desires as I am. Do you think I can't see this?

Quote
Perhaps I start with different philosophical assumptions than you, and this causes my conclusions to diverge from yours.

I'm sure this is the case. As I wrote earlier, the Golden Rule is nearly never followed when the status quo favors the rule-breaker. There are *always* persuasive reasons why *this* is an exception. Even if you are the only one persuaded.

Quote
Personally, I wouldn't mind if gay marriages are recognised if I didn't see a lot of historical and medical evidence that this will cause harmful, even catastrophic outcomes.

But you haven't made this case, that I can see. You have STATED that if those whose sexual practices make you uncomfortable, are granted ordinary civil rights just like they were (gasp) citizens, then catastrophe will follow. And you don't understand that this claim is 100% self-serving, and based on nothing but itself?

Quote
Once again, look at the effects of prior progressive policies, and the lies that were told to justify them.

I wish you could specify one, so we could contrast and compare it. To me, granting all citizens the same civil rights is not "progressive", it is fundamental.

Quote
What makes you think that gay marriage isn't yet another Trojan Horse for an overthrow of Western society?

Weird, man. For the most part, gay marriage is nothing more than the legal recognition of an existing relationship. Some of the gays who applied for marriage licenses had been in monogamous relationships for *decades*. So all we're really talking about is reducing the cost of constructing the legal relationship, so that gays need not spend $10,000 to get the privileges and responsibilities that straights get for $25. And I can't believe you are saying that eliminating this discriminatory cost difference will overthrow Western society.

So basically, I stand by what I've said. You do not WANT to grant rights you enjoy, to people you dislike for whatever reasons. You have no problem abandoning equality, the golden rule, civil rights, American political goals, or whatever it takes so long as your prejudices are ratified in the law. And ANY argument you can find is good enough for you, even if it's completely irrelevant.

What I don't understand is, why do you find all this circumlocution necessary. Why not be as honest as thordaddy and simply say "homosexuality is SINFUL, it's terrible, I can't help feeling this way, I can't admit I might be wrong, I don't regard social principles as valid if they say otherwise. So there!" After all, these ARE your "philosophical assumptions."

Date: 2006/04/15 11:32:16, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
I don't wish to limit their rights to free speech or employment or living arrangements or public displays of affection - I just don't think marriage is an absolute right. If it was, we'd allow polygamy and (yes) incestuous marriages. We don't, and for a very good reason - polygamy would destroy the social fabric (lots and lots of lonely, unmarried men above and beyond what we have now), while incest can lead to children with genetic problems. It's really not so hard to see, guys. If we can use evidence to restrict some types of marriage, why can't we use it to challenge other types? In other words, why do liberals get to select the ways in which we can approach topics?

An awful lot of baggage being lugged around by these questions, you know?

Let's agree, just to clarify a bit, that where good reasons exist, marriages should not be recognized. But I don't think anyone is claiming marriage is an *absolute* right, I think people are saying that marriage is a civil right that should be denied only for relevant reasons. So we're trying to decide what's relevant here.

I'll grant that incest is genetically hazardous. I can see no reason why the "social fabric" would be threatened by 3+ person marriages; these have been experimented with fairly often without the loss of "social fabric" and indeed are still practiced in some places in the US. Similarly, I see no compelling reason to prohibit gay marriage. Maybe I lack your hotline to the social fabric, but from my perspective, you are saying "If we change SOME rules (which just happen to be hobbyhorses of the religious right), the boogeymay will git you!" So far, your evidence has not been relevant. You speak at length about disease, but never once have you suggested any evidence that marriage makes disease worse in any way.

So from my perspective, this comes down to a demand on my part that you show cause why marriage should be denied. So far, you have shown none. Ericmurphy and I have tried multiple times to point out that we're talking here NOT about any "blessed relationship" but rather a specific set of legal provisions. If you think changing some peoples' legal status threatens society, you should explain why, rather than ducking the issue over and over.

Because that's all we're talking about. Would you find it acceptable if we dubbed such arrangements "civil unions" so long as they were legally identical? It's not as though doing thos is going to change anyone's social or sexual behavior.

Quote
even for fundamental rights exceptions exist. Why shouldn't this be the case for non-fundamental ones?

This is a pathetic argument. Yes, exceptions are always made for *immediate, obvious, clear and present compelling cause*, not for hazy fears that maybe someday some change will somehow unravel someone's hazy notion of a "social fabric." That's just noise.

Quote
Second, I've been trying to supply evidence for my position.

Maybe I just don't know what your position is. What I'm trying to talk about is the legal condition of marriage, and whether extending that condition to people whose relationship is *otherwise no different* is appropriate. So far, you have come up with two "evidences" - the first is that the sexual behavior of that part of the gay community that does NOT WISH TO MARRY, should prohibit marriage for those who do. Which is frankly silly. And the second "evidence" is the claim that if these people ARE granted the legal condition of marriage, society will self-destruct. But this isn't any sort of evidence, this is directionless fear, straight homophobia.

Date: 2006/04/15 11:46:53, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
So what can we do to ensure that equal rights stay equal? I'm open to suggestions.

Sigh. Let's set the domino theory aside for a moment. You may be fully sincere in thinking that if we let these people have SOME rights, they'll want FULL rights. And I wouldn't be surprised.

Quote
Problem is, the courts define equal rights as equal outcomes in employment, housing, schooling, etc. This means lots of work for the government to do, as outcomes are never equal - it's practically a statistical impossibility.

This is an echo of the standard creationist argument that if science doesn't know everything, it doesn't know anything. The kind of all-or-nothing argument. But it's not correct. Granted, equality is a slippery notion. Ideally, we wish to guarantee equality of opportunity, not equality of results. But if results are all we have to measure by, and the results are WAY WAY different, is it legitimate to conclude that maybe the opportunities were also different? This is a hard question, but not impossible.

In the case of race relations, without question results are starkly different. Nearly ALL the blacks cross the finish line well after all but the most incompetent of everyone else. And granted, government (and perhaps society?) has made the equality of the races a matter of faith, or definition. The difference in results can't be explained by a difference in ability, therefore it MUST be a difference in opportunity.

My reading is that it's a combination of the two, but maybe that situation is different. It's not philosophically impossible to determine whether a house or a job is being denied to someone strictly on the grounds of sexual orientation. And not hard to prevent this.

(As a footnote, for whatever reasons, blacks DO score a standard deviation below whites, and TWO standard deviations below asians. Perhaps whatever the reasons for this are can be corrected, perhaps not. But I've never seen the slightest suggestion that gays would need special "affirmative action" programs on the grounds that they are as a group plain less intelligent, educated, or competent. In fact, gays are spread throughout the workforce at every level. So I think your only valid concern would be that in order to REACH these positions, they had to stay in the closet. However, coming out of the closet and THEN finding their paths suddenly and newly blocked means real discrimination for the sake of discrimination. Are you defending this?)

Quote
we've already deemed gay relationships as deserving of federal recognition, why not expand this recognition to gays as a distinct, victimized group?

If they ARE a victimized group, would this STILL be a terrible thing? Personally, I have not seen gays asking for a single opportunity that you or I don't already have.

Date: 2006/04/15 12:08:32, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I'm arguing that societal disapproval acts as a brake to spreading disease, and that removing that brake might cause an acceleration in promiscuity. For example, it used to be true that men were more likely to cheat on their spouses. Not anymore: the latest surveys show that female infidelity rates have finally approached men's. Why? Society has changed:

By this logic, why don't you advocate eliminating marriage as an institution. By your reasoning, discouraging the effort to live in a monogamous relationship should suppress BOTH the spread of disease, and the frequency of infidelity.

Maybe when your concerns are taken to their logical conclusions and you see how foolish your position actually is. But I seriously doubt this. Golly, if only we went back to a patriarchical society, where disobedient women were hussies and sluts, everyone would be ever so much happier. But this is a rearguard battle, to be sure.

But I think I'm starting to understand where you're coming from: for a conservative, change is wrong. ANY change, in ANY direction, is bad. And it's bad because it's different, and different is always worse. Back in the good old days when men were men, women weren't uppity, crime was rare, queers were invisible, gratification was delayed, and right-thinking families every night by golly got down on their collective knees and *prayed*, why, the world used to be wonderful. Back when equal rights, like the right to vote, belonged solely to white Christian adult men who owned land. And nobody else was equal because by gum, they WEREN'T equal, they were inferior on the merits, back when liberals weren't distorting what merits really ARE.

And in this larger context, this marvelous mythical dream fantasy, your policy positions fit right in and make perfect sense. I can dig it.

Date: 2006/04/15 14:53:27, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I have to say, I called it on Thordaddy weeks ago.

Agreed, thordaddy is intellectually challenged - that is, a very dim bulb. But I think it's important to recognize that his convictions aren't the result of lack of mental processing power. Ghost is certainly NOT stupid, and marshals a great deal of processing power in a subtle, indirect, and misleading structure of careful rationalizations of *exactly the same convictions.*

Religious faith is not a matter of intelligence, and not a matter of evidence or knowledge. Dawkins describes it best, I think, as a virus, an actual organic brain malfunction introduced before self-defense is possible. Evidence DOES tell us that neither intelligence nor education is particularly effective against this affliction.

I consider thordaddy's approach more boring, like punching a heavy bag that ignores any efforts and just swings back into the same place. Ghost is more entertaining, like trying to outflank smoke and mirrors. But in either case, the result is the Kurt Wise Syndrome: evidence simply *does not matter*. Logic, reason, all irrelevant. The virus simply doesn't live where such medications can reach.

Date: 2006/04/16 13:00:43, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Sadly, a very long and detailed reply fell victim to the "lose everything you've typed instantly" keystroke, whatever it is. Took me over an hour to create. This software SUCKS!!!

Anyway, since I don't feel like replicating everything this software deleted, I don't feel you have made ANY case that the social grant of civil marriage *increases* any of the health threats you've been talking about.

So we have two basic issues here. First, does State grant of legal marriage increase the incidence of behaviors dangerous to social health? So far, you have not addressed this at all. I'm not aware of any suggestion this is so. Do you have evidence that those gays who now have married (or attempted to do so) are *more dangerous* to social health than those who have not?

Second, IF the behavior of certain identifiable groups of people is demonstrably unhealthy, should this behavior disqualify those practicing it from the institution of marriage? By comparison, should felons in jail be prohibited from marrying? They are not, today. Should they be? People suffering from any disease you can name are not prohibited from marriage. Should they be? In fact, with the signal exception of gays, society falls over backwards encouraging marriage, on the hopeful grounds that this institution will discourage any OTHER antisocial behavior. Why is homosexuality different other than straight homophobia?

Quote
One more thing. How about a trade: let gays have full marriage privileges, while everyone, including gays, gets their right of free association back. It's not like gays would be giving up entitlements they already have, since their group isn't formally recognised as a victim group. In fact, their net and absolute rights will expand. Everyone else will also be more free. Yes, bigots will use this freedom to reinstate restrictive covenants in a few areas, but for gays, what else is new? It's not like bigoted landlords didn't already have de facto discrimination in place. So what do you think? Would you take the tradeoff? All opinions welcome, especially the usual gang and T-daddy's. Remember, I'm not asking if it's realistic, just if you would make the swap. I would, in a heartbeat.

I quoted all this because after several re-readings, I don't get it. The trade seems to be, WE will allow gays to marry, and in exchage WE will get free association. But non-gays have never to my knowledge lost the right to free association. What is the trade here? How will I be MORE free? How will bigots use what hasn't changed to make any change? What am I missing here? So I don't see any kind of swap involved. I agree to grant gays the same rights I have, and in exchange my rights don't change. Well, duh! Isn't that the whole idea? People are people, they have the same rights and priviliges. Grant those rights and priviliges to those who lack them for no relevant reasons. Everyone wins, nobody loses a danm thing. Who could disagree?

Date: 2006/04/17 14:46:12, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
This is why I brought up the legal definitions - what we have here is a failure to agree on whether:

1) Marriage is a fundamental right that requires strict scrutiny to overturn*
2) the restriction must be narrowly tailored to meet its objective
3) we can assume that marriage trumps culture


OK, I guess we disagree here about the default. For me, the default is that rights granted to citizens are granted to ALL citizens, and denied only for non-capricious violations (i.e. violations that specifically abuse the right being granted). For you, the default is that rights are granted selectively, to those groups who have demonstrated that they "deserve" the rights, in the opinion of, well, you, I guess.

I suppose we can say that marriage is *defined* as a grant of (very extensive) legal distinction, to two consenting adults of opposite sex. And that this grant is NOT extended (and thus none of the legal conditions apply) to any variation - same sex, more than two people, any minors involved, someone nonconsenting, etc.

As to whether any or all of these limitations and restrictions help or hurt society as a whole, this isn't something science is competent to determine. Science is competent, in principle anyway, to determine the EFFECTS on society, perhaps in great detail. The value placed on these effects, though, is what really counts.

And so we adopt normative positions. True, we don't really know these effects, but I think that's beside the point. I suspect that if you were to discover that the costs were in fact beneficial to society in your opinion, you would still be opposed, and vice versa for me.

I agree with you that there are no "fundamental" rights, and I disagree with ericmurphy on this. We have battling principles here. I admire the society I live in, and I think it is admirable because of the (results of the) effort made to grant equal opportunities to everyone. You apparently also admire this society, which you believe is made admirable by our ability to apply rights sensibly as opposed to broadly. An interesting conflict of viewpoints.

Date: 2006/04/18 04:21:56, Link
Author: Flint
afdave:

Well, one small point. Nobody will (I hope) contest that magic is the one-size-fits-all universal all-purpose explanation for everything. It's simple, it requires no knowledge, research, study, or work. And accordingly, no matter how compelling any alternative explanation might be, magic is STILL simpler and easier to understand. And furthermore, no  matter how accurate any alternative might be, magic can't ever be ruled out.

To address some of your other points:

Quote
I have never heard of a random mutation that could be considered beneficial.

No doubt you haven't. And perhaps there's no doubt you ever will. But your inability to hear really has nothing to do with whether these things happen. I suggest that a mutation is beneficial or not within a context. Let's try a wild example: Let's say you suddenly mutated and became 5 feet taller. Would this be "beneficial"? Well, yes for some purposes, no for others. For sure you would have to change your lifestyle; your new height would be a considerable handicap otherwise. But your NEW lifestyle might be entirely viable, maybe even fabulous. So was this mutation beneficial?

Quote
I'm not aware of A SINGLE fossil that can be considered transitional

While, once again, your awareness doesn't much matter, you may also have a viewpoint issue here. From a more evolutionary viewpoint, ALL fossils are transitional, and indeed ALL organisms alive today are ALSO transitional. Evolution is a constant, permanent state of transition. Granted, it's a very very slow process.

Quote
1)  I see highly sophisticated, biological machines at every level in nature, macro to micro.

Yes, we all do. Of course, you might be trying to stack the deck with the word 'machines'. Let's call a machine, anything with any mechanics.

Quote
I know from my engineering experience that sophisticated, non-biological machines that actually work require enormous amounts of intelligence (not to mention effort) to get them designed well enough to where they will work and continue working for a long time.

Yes, I'm an engineer as well, and nothing I create works well without a lot of effort. However, I can notice that the *process* of creation is very different. Give me a billion years to throw darts, and kill off every throw that misses the bullseye, and by golly, what's left is nothing but bullseyes. Must be a miracle, yes?

Quote
it makes sense to me that there COULD be a designer somewhere

Yes, of course there could. And there we stop, dead-ended. Yep, could be. Can we ever disprove this, even in principle? Nope, we never can. End of the line.

Quote
I look at the fossil record with the zillions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and I conclude that there must have been a massive, global flood which buried all those fossils.

With all due respect, you are kidding yourself. You have a *magic book* which TOLD you a flood did it, and you don't know enough geology or hydrology to realize this couldn't possibly explain the evidence. But for people not pre-convinced otherwise, this isn't very hard. Floods are common. The effects of floods are thoroughly observed and understood. What floods can and cannot do is beyond any informed dispute. What we observe is the *exact opposite* of what a flood would produce.

Quote
Now I pick up a Bible

Perhaps doing so has caused your inability to understand floods, your inability to understand transitions, your inability to hear about beneficial mutations, etc. At least, this is something to be concerned about.

Quote
on closer inspection, I find it to be accurate in every historical detail which is possible to be verified by archaeology.  I read it from cover to cover to give it a fair analysis and I am struck by the accuracy with which it describes human behaviour.

Well, yes, I would agree. The Bible, as far as we can tell today, contains much of historical accuracy, and people understood other people back then just as they do today. But there is a critical difference between the facts, and the conclusions from the facts. For example, lightning hits a tree. No dispute. Now, WHY did lightning hit that tree? A scientist might talk about differential voltages, leaders coming up from the tree, completed circuits, etc. A theologist might say "God is warning us". Whose interpretation is correct? Who knows?

So we have a very big problem here. You have decided that we cannot (for the most part) dismiss any of the facts in the Bible, and therefore you have decided that the conclusions based on those facts are equally correct. But these are only interpretations, and the distinction needs to be kept clear. We know for a fact that lightning hit the tree. We cannot therefore accept as a fact that some god was trying to tell us anything. It's very different to think the Bible tells deliberate historical falsehoods, and to think that history was filtered through the religious beliefs of the authors. Their beliefs are a different kind of fact.

Date: 2006/04/18 07:29:59, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
But I try to be polite and I honestly like to hear evolutionists state, in their own words, why they believe in macro-evolution.

Well, it's not a matter of belief, it's a matter of evidence. Incredible as it may sound to the unaided ear, opinions based on evidence, tested and honed by reality, are qualitatively different from "beliefs" that people hold because, well, because people hold beliefs.

As a rule, people accept "macro-evolution" because that's the inevitable conclusion supported by all available evidence. People reject it because their religious doctrine can't tolerate it. I have never seen an *informed* rejection (as opposed to a maze of misrepresentations) except on religious grounds. I can respect Kurt Wise, saying that his interpretation of selected scripture trumps reality. Evidence either matters or it does not. Evidence says macroevolution not only happens, but can't be avoided. But if evidence does not matter, then of course belief is all that's left.

Date: 2006/04/18 11:20:46, Link
Author: Flint
Stephen Elliott

If you are correct, you are WAY unique. You might enjoy reading this article, which much more closely reflects my understanding...

Quote
A new Canadian study is the first to systematically mark the onset of "childhood amnesia" in children rather than adults. The research shows that by our tenth birthday our early pre-school memories have receded into an inaccessible past.

It's a result, the lead researcher says, that further deepens the mystery around the fate of our earliest autobiographical memories.

"I expected that they would differ, but there's a striking similarity in the age of the earliest memory for adults and ten-year-olds," says Dr. Carole Peterson, a psychologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her study, funded by NSERC, was published in the August issue of the journal Memory.

The results extend what Dr. Peterson calls the paradox of surrounding childhood amnesia – adults’ inability to recall autobiographical events that occurred before the age of four. Four- and three-year-olds can readily recall events from their second year.

Date: 2006/04/19 05:11:24, Link
Author: Flint
Similar arguments have been presented against such horrifying prospects as extending the vote to non-landholders, then to ex-slaves, and finally to (ghasp) women. And we continue to take straw votes of inmates at mental hospitals (who are not permitted to vote), and the results are a close match to the actual national vote every time.

We seem to have the viewpoints here that change is (1) harmless, (2) essential, and (3) destructive. TD and Ghost are card-carrying members of group 3. I personally belong in group 2 - adapt or die.

(And based on the general tenor of their arguments, I wouldn't be at all surprised if both TD and Ghost fundamentally agreed with Occam's quotes, even today. No question at all where they'd have stood at the time, though for different professed reasons. TD would have expressed lizard-brain revulsion, while Ghost would have stressed time-honored discriminatory traditions...)

Date: 2006/04/19 07:30:15, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I see the interracial trump card has finally been played. I'm only surprised it took so long.

But are you surprised at the precise congruence of the arguments?

Date: 2006/04/19 08:05:55, Link
Author: Flint
Perhaps the most common pattern, let's call it pattern #1:

1) Make statements/ask questions
2) Get tons of excellent replies
3) Either vanish entirely, or ignore all replies and change the subject.

Maybe there's supposed to be a call-and-response, but this congregation is giving the wrong response?

Date: 2006/04/19 09:35:33, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
a) Opponents of interracial unions, unlike the opponents of gay marriage, have to deal with the fact that such unions can produce children. A social justification for these relationships is present from the beginning.

Yes, granted. In fact, the fact that interracial unions COULD have children that was one of the most compelling reasons to prohibit them. The relationships weren't just abominations per se, they would BREED abominations. You can't even make that claim.

Quote
b)  It's more difficult to show social harm from such relations, since there is no expectation a priori for more promiscuity.

Your understandings are certainly selective. Maybe you don't live in Alabama? I can assure you that them niggers is *guaranteed* promiscuous. Not to mention too stupid to understand that marriage implies fidelity anyway. And sure enough, this guaranteed promiscuity was ANOTHER factor that would cause interracial marriage to destroy society. Some of my neighbors still argue this, sounding exactly like you.

Quote
c) On the other hand, opponents of racial mixing can argue that the children of those unions degrade society with their allegedly low IQs, poor impulse control, or higher violent tendencies. Homophobes cannot use this argument.

Here, you have lost me. Your point (1) was that you can justify anto-gay discrimination because unable to have children of their own, they deserve to be discriminated against. Now you argue that because interracial marriages CAN have children on their own, this ALSO justifies discrimination. Make up your mind. Are you saying that gay marriages are OK *provided* the couple raises children? Or what?

Quote
1) Although many social conservatives have tried to prohibit interracial marriages, there is no necessary connection between racism and homophobia.

If we get to play games with the definition of "connection", then of course what you say is true, or false, or irrelevant, just change the definition! What we're talking about here is identifiable out-groups, people unlike us in some way. Different=wrong. I said this earlier, but I see it didn't take. They are *different*, deny them their rights. Make up the reasons afterward, so long as they stay inferior!

Racism and homophobia may be identifiably distinct prejudices, but the principle of equality applies in both cases. You may very well know some homosexuals without even realizing it, but I discussed this before. Homosexuals, by remaining in the closet, have demonstrated broad competence, intelligence, responsibility in all walks of life. I submit that if they are granted the right to marry, and you were unaware of it, you would *never know it*. Not by any examination of anything - unless someone died, and you didn't receive some money because their will was reinforced enough by their marriage to withstand your effort to override it.

Quote
2) Although I believe that interracial unions are both moral and legal, they harm society in several ways that are obvious to anyone with a capacity to reason. Thus, I will have my work cut out for me in this forum.   The good news is, the social benefits far outweigh the liabilities.

Yet another exact congruence, yes? The social benefits far outweigh the liabilities. I've never said there are NO liabilities.

Quote
3) The original opponents of interracial marriage, although wrong in several key areas, correctly projected some of the harm that would come from these marriages. Some of their other concerns may also be valid.

You won't get any argument from me on this one. I can see problems with gay marriage myself. And I'm quite sure some of the problems you predict will in fact come to pass. But as you recognize about interracial marriage, the pros FAR outweigh the cons. You have at least distinguished between moral and legal on the one hand, and (within limits occasionally) harmful on the other.

Much the same has been the history of extending the vote to women. Terrible consequences were predicted. A case can be made that some of these have come to pass. So was giving women the vote an error?

Date: 2006/04/19 10:08:00, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
But this assumes that the opponents of deviant* marriages must bear the burden of proof, and that marriage is a fundamental right available to all.

Not only marriage, but equality under the law, eligibility to vote, elimination of slavery, the discontinuing of the requirement of land ownership.

To me, this is interesting, because the US was founded on principles that arose out of the times - that "all men were created equal" (in the eyes of the law), that nobody was BORN superior (no caste system, no peerage and commoners, no knighthood and lords, etc.). But even under the new Constitution, drastic inequalities remained, and had to be extracted from a society of equals, often at great expense (like war), always with great difficulty. And we see a consistent pattern in every case:

Those conservatives like you and TD fought against every one of these reforms, kicking and screaming about the collapse of society. Yet today at least you (I don't know what or even IF thordaddy thinks) can look back, at a couple or more generations removed, and see that every one of these reforms was a net benefit, and that US society was on balance strengthened rather than destroyed *every time equality was granted* to a previously deprived group.

I strongly suspect you're also intelligent and informed enough to know that the reasons WHY each of these proposed reforms was opposed, were regarded as specifically compelling. "We CANNOT extend the vote to those who don't own land, because they are in the majority, and will promptly vote to take our land away from us. Worse yet, they don't know what to DO with land, or how to husband it. We are doomed!"

My reading is that the burden of proof was placed by both sides of each of these issues, onto the other side: YOU need to show cause why granting/denying this right won't lead to terrible consequences/forward American principles, etc. And what's also interesting is, in each case the "inferior" or "dangerous" group had no input - they had no vote, or lacked the target right.

But the principle has remained the same: It is clearly to our social advantage as a nation to grant equal protection under the law to everyone. Always has been, and social conservatives have ALWAYS opposed this for reasons they considered compelling. In hindsight, we can see that their reasons were invariably self-serving, made up to support resistance to change. Nothing is new today.

Date: 2006/04/19 11:50:07, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Are we missing one another this badly? Weird...

Quote
As the above shows, this is simply not true.

Abolition was an "equal protection of the law" controversy? Nope, it was not. But if you're saying religious conservatives opposed abolition, I'd start to wonder...

Slavery is an interesting case, because conservatives both opposed and favored it. As your quote makes clear, it was framed as a religious issue. And maybe that's our problem here. I understand the futility of asking you to set aside your religious reflexes to examine cases on their merits; you believe your faith HAS merits, as firmly as I believe otherwise. So that's a waste of time.

Anyway, I'm conservative on fiscal matters. I think well over half of the government should be eliminated, social programs should be discarded, regulation should be cut back, the war on drugs dropped, the right to open carry guaranteed to everyone, etc.

So I have to laugh at the term "liberal", except in the original traditional sense: that all people are created equal in the eyes of the law, that no rights granted to anyone should be denied anyone else without clear and relevant cause. I'm opposed to affirmative action, I favor the death penalty. I think if government matched my vision, this entire question of marriage would be largely moot, because State regulation of marriage would be largely eliminated. I think the State has no business in our bedrooms. I'm opposed to the creation of victimless crimes, where every party to a transaction is satisfied but external parties otherwise not impacted try to meddle.

How 'liberal' is all this? In my own eyes, I'm very conservative in a historical sense. Small government, light regulation, no meddling in private affairs, equality before the law for everyone unless the right itself is abused, no favoratism of any kind, not to minorities, not to majorities. My idea of conservatism is that government is blind to color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

You seem, at least from here, to be a kind of combination: you take principled positions except where right-wing religious fundamentalism grabs your brain and YANKS. I described this earlier as like watching a decathlete having an epileptic fit. Where you are allowed to think, you do it well. Where you are NOT allowed, you can't even see that this is the case, and will deny it forever. What a terrible thing has been done.

Date: 2006/04/19 15:03:17, Link
Author: Flint
The sad thing is, Ghost's arguments are worse than weak, they are silly. The closest I can come to anything rational is that maybe, if by reducing the cost of a marital relationship for gays to be equal to that for straights, more gays are inspired to marry, then...no, that's the *opposite* of what he says he worries about.

OK, maybe by lowering this cost, society is tacitly condoning an existing committed relationship, which will inspire those involved to break it...no, that doesn't make sense either.

OK, maybe it's the domino theory. If we give gay people the right to marry for $25 rather than $10,000, this will inspire gays to demand equal access to jobs and...wait, they already *have* equal access and aren't asking for more. But maybe they WILL ask for more? What Ghost seems most concerned about is that those who are discriminated against tend to dislike this, which leads to attempts to end the discrimination, which sometimes *actually work*, which is terrible because...well, I guess if society does NOT discriminate against those Ghost dislikes, it will collapse, as it always does whenever equal rights are granted - doesn't it?

Come on, let's face it. The problem is, evangelical Christians have three current boogeymen, evolution, gay marriage, and freedom for OTHER people to choose (they themselves, of course ALSO choose, but that's different, because they LIKE the choices THEY make). There is no defensible reason, indeed no *remotely plausible* reason, for opposing gay marriage, except fundie-inspired prejudice. In 12+ pages of posts, so far, Ghost has failed to come up with one single defense of his position that is more than "If things were different in ways my religion dislikes, they might be much worse."

I wonder how most gay fundamentalists feel? I met one about a year ago, and her story is nearly criminal. Her pastor has sent her to a deprogramming outfit, who have managed to convince her that she's filthy, that she's cured, that she can never be cured, that it's all her fault, that God is punishing her, and that she's a worthless loser for choosing to insult God. Last I spoke to her, she was absolutely depressed and miserable, and God was answering none of her prayers. She STILL was aroused by filth and she'd decided God must hate her. Haven't seen her for a while, she worked at the local grocery but quit a few months back.

After listening to some of that, I know that if I had a "see how YOU like it" gay-ray, I wouldn't even shoot thordaddy with it. Setting the sex drive head-to-head against religious brainwashing is a fast track to suicide - neither of them is even the slightest bit tractable.

Date: 2006/04/20 03:44:13, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost,

OK, I'm willing to go this way.

Quote
Can a principled objection be made to same sex marriage?

In an abstract sense, yes it can. What we have here is battling principles. On the one hand, we have equality under the law for all consenting adult citizens. On the other hand, we have the principle that marriage is a compact (sanctioned by the state, to be sure) that *by definition* is between one man and one woman (not necessarily voluntarily, not necessarily adults or (in parts of the world) even *born yet*, policies vary but we call all these marriages). In other words, marriage is a *definition* we are trying to change.

And I can understand the argument that changing this definition means opening it up to change, which might let in all kinds of awful things like group marriages, or coerced marriages, or marriages involving minors, etc. Which in turn is based on the assumption that it's not possible to save the village without destroying it.

Quote
the advocate of gay marriage may assume that his opponent is deluded, self-serving, evil, or some combination of the above.

These terms are excessively harsh, perhaps. As I wrote, from what I've seen, the opponent dislikes change, thinks such a change risks *the unknown!*, which is always terrifying. No matter how clearly it appears that such a change in the definition of marriage will change nobody's behavior, and bestow benefits without cost, this appearance *might* be wrong.

Quote
The opponent must assume that gay marriage would increase unhealthy behavior, a position that is prima facie irrational and self-refuting.

Well, it's certainly a stretch. But I think this sort of argument allows the camel's nose into the tent. Healthy behavior is a matter of public health, not a matter of civil rights.

Quote
Do gay people behave badly?

This question is DOA. Gay people certainly behave in ways straights do not. Some of those ways present different, perhaps even more severe, health hazards. But "badly" is a *purely subjective* assessment. Do sky divers or bungee jumpers behave "badly" in light of the risks they take? What standard are we using here?

Well, let's say that drunk drivers are behaving "badly", because they represent a public danger. If I understand your argument, you find strong parallels here. Gays are like drunks - they recklessly place society in danger by being irresponsible. Where I get confused is, why don't you advocate that drunk drivers lose their right to marry? The punishment is no LESS appropriate.

Quote
no one can objectively classify acts as good or evil unless such acts infringe other people's rights. Voluntary sex, no matter how common, clearly infringes on nobody's rights.

I smell a 'penumbra' argument here, similar to the one made about guns. So long as nobody is hurt, say the conservatives, responsible people should not lose their right to carry because irresponsible people are violent. And the liberal argues, if guns were rare ipso facto gun violence would be rare. No social policy exists in a social vacuum; there's always a tradeoff because there are always indirect downstream effects.

And so we have intelligent, sincere, informed people who feel that morality in the US has been heading downhill for a long time, as society becomes more and more irresponsibly permissive, and equally competent people celebrating the gradual emancipation from the bad old days of institutionalized discrimination and favoritism.

Quote
Even if they do, it's no one else's business, and drugs are available to combat most diseases - including AIDS. Infection rates are under control, and the gay community is much more cautious today than in the past.

Again, this is a different subject, and probably a red herring. We can generalize here and say "Let's deny marriage to anyone *similar to* anyone else who does antisocial things." Whether or not this penalty is even remotely relevant.

What seems to make marriage denial relevant is the a priori conviction that gays are undesirable icky people, that God hates them, that they *deserve* to be denied ordinary civil rights because they are *different* and life is much more pleasant if we keep them in their place, which is as far away from US as possible. NOW, the task is to find a "principled" and at least remotely plausible rationalization for this policy. Good thing gays in the US are still the primary vector for HIV. After all, we needed SOME excuse.

Quote
This is because gay feelings are biologically driven to a certain extent.

By all indications, it's harder to cure being gay than being fundamentalist Christian.

So the argument seems to be:
1) Promiscuity is bad, period. Just bad. Trust me, bad.
2) Gays are more promiscuous than straights, *except* straights with equal access, who behave the same way. But even those straights can marry because, well, because.
3) If we sanction NON-promiscuous gay relationships, gays will become even MORE promiscuous. Trust me on this. I know. Maybe the married gays won't, but we'll send a social signal that being promiscuous is better than it used to be, and *everyone* will become promiscuous, and disease will run rampant, which is the punishment we deserve for becoming LESS moral rather than MORE moral, and just BEING gay is immoral, much less ACTING gay.

Now we continue the elaborate dance. You have presented a fairly long list here of support for civil rights. Clearly, you don't consider this support sufficient to override whatever your reasons are for denying them. And those reasons seem to be "I know this is wrong." And that core conviction being impermeable, all else follows.

Date: 2006/04/20 04:49:09, Link
Author: Flint
Occam:

Yeah, yeah. Now I have a question for you: is Ghost basing his policy preferences on anything similar to thordaddy, but gussying it up with more sophisticated rationalizations? Or is Ghost's rejection based on anything more substantive?

Date: 2006/04/20 05:14:33, Link
Author: Flint
bourgeois_rage:

May I suggest a slightly different emphasis? I don't think you're necessarily wrong, but you might try a different view on for size anyway:

Quote
After doing my own research I found that ID's view of evolution tends to be mostly misconceptions and strawmen. To me, this is not a convincing argument...I think that here are those of us who wish to be told what to think and then there are those of us who wish to draw their own conclusions.

My observation is that the two use methods exactly inverse of one another. Biologists base their conclusions on what their research reveals, and often disagree vociferously on how that evidence is best interpreted. This is healthy, because the points of disagreement pinpoint where clarification is needed, and direct further research appropriately.

Creationists, exactly the contrary, start with their conclusions. The conclusions aren't lousy because they are based on misconceptions and strawmen; rather the misconceptions and strawmen were confected as required to justify foregone conclusions unfortunately refuted by reality.

In a nutshell, biologists draw conclusion from evidence, and creationists manufacture evidence from conclusions.

Quote
some try to be objective and weigh all the evidence while some try to do that while also bringing in a belief system

And so this is probably a misunderstanding. A belief system contrary to fact *prevents* one from weighing evidence, or often even recognizing evidence. The belief system dictates the "evidence". The chronological sequence matters. In biology, evidence->conclusions. In creationism, conclusions->misrepresentations and strawmen.

Date: 2006/04/20 05:38:25, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

OK, maybe now we're getting somewhere.

Quote
1) The traditional definition of marriage is arbitrary. Its  raison d'etre? To exclude and oppress sexual minorities.

Huh? What we're talking about here is the degree to which the State bureaucracy has institutionalized what marriage means in legal practice. Someone counted over 10,000 separate legal differences between married and not married. These differences cost gays over $10,000 as opposed to $25 for straights, and STILL don't quite cover the territory as thoroughly.

Quote
2) Gay marriage is a logical consequence of the 14th Amendment.

Ugh. The 14th Amendment is a consequence of the recognition that citizens of the States are citizens of the Nation, and ipso facto inherit rights granted by the US Constitution to all citizens. The US Constitution is itself a product of a political philosophy of legal equality for all citizens. So I would say that the US Constitution including all amendments and marriage derive from the same source. They are logical consequences of the same political philosophy.

Quote
3) Therefore, any reasonable person would advocate gay marriage given the chance.

That's very misleading. No, I would say that anyone who *values American political ideals* would advocate that what are considered basic civil rights be extended to all citizens, and that institutionalized discrimination violates those ideals. Please note that de facto discrimination is a different matter, handled differently. Marriage is so thoroughly intertwined with laws and regulations by now that any denial of these legalities is institutionalized discrimination. And please note that marriage is being addressed here because this seems to be the ONLY civil rights legally denied to gays. If they were allowed to marry but had to sit at the back of the bus, I'd still be trying to "mainstream" them. They are ordinary taxpaying citizens.

Quote
4) Corollary: anyone who wishes to deny said rights must be a bigot

Sigh. There are many entirely reasonable people worldwide who do NOT share American political values and ideals. But I'll concede that I consider the golden rule to be a human universal; it's very cross cultural. And accordingly, those who wish to violate this rule, in my opinion, need some pretty compelling and relevant reasons. Otherwise, as I keep saying, we can note that the golden rule is awfully hard to follow when the status quo favors those who break it.

Quote
5) So the debate revolves around exposing the bigotry underlying the opponent's position. If he frets over the spread of deadly diseases, that's just a ruse.

No, it's a different issue. Let's say the issue is whether women should be allowed to drive. We note that women DO drive despite not having licenses, and that they have accidents sometimes due to being drunk. Is focusing on the sobriety of these individuals proximately appropriate to the general issue of drivers licenses?

So I think you're using a "look over there" argument. If we're concerned about the spread of deadly diseases, let's focus on the disease. EVEN IF marriage by some incomprehensible mechanism increases the spread of the disease, the focus is still the disease and not the 10,000 legal distinctions and the $10,000 difference in cost to achieve them.

Quote
If he cites a study, it's merely to pollute the liberal mind with sophistry.

You know better than this, so shame on you! Studies of disease aren't sophistry, but claiming that these studies justify denial of equality under the law flagrantly misses the point. And you know it.

Quote
We're liberals after all - we possess a purity of heart and clarity of mind that lets us see through the haze of smoke that cloaks the conservative's atavistic loathing of Liberty, Truth and Beauty.

I would hope we value American political ideals. This doesn't necessarily mean purity of heart, I suppose. I've said nothing about truth and beauty, as you know. I'm talking about a *legal condition*, and the difference in the way the State treats people based on this legal condition. And the differential cost of achieving comparable conditions.

Look, nowhere have you said that gays should not be allowed to *approximate* marriage, very very closely, by going through this very extensive and expensive legal process. Yet by so doing, they achieve basically the same purpose (if they are wealthy enough).

So the challenge you continue to dodge is very simple: How will reducing the price of these legal arrangements cause damage to society? Let's TRY to stay focused, OK?

Date: 2006/04/20 10:05:48, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
The sad/funny part is that for those who actually look into the claims, a lot of times the jumps in their logic/coverups are obvious.

One needn't spend a whole long time looking at "global flood" claims to realize that evidence simply doesn't matter. No biblical fable could be more emphatically fiction, in every way possible. Every single detail of the flood before, during, and after is not just impossible but flagrantly, preposterously, insanely impossible. Watching creationists defend the flood is a ringside seat into understanding what faith can do to the brain.

Date: 2006/04/20 10:43:57, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Why can't my 5 brothers and I get "married" so we can further our financial and business interests and use the equal protection clause as the basis for our argument?

Hey, let me guess. It's because if we allowed, that, our entire society would collapse! Right? Right?

Uh, what financial and business interests would be furthered? If you have any real advantage to be gained, you might want to consider this option.

However, I might point out that sheer inertia is going to work against you. A change from two different-sex people to two same-sex people requires NO changes to any other rules or regulations. It simply extends *identical* rights to a legally identical arrangement.

However, adding additional people won't be anywhere near as transparent. Is the inheritance situation a tontine, where last one left alive gets it all? But tontines are now illegal, so something would have to change, risking unintended side effects. And how about such issues as child support/custody? I'm not saying that making these changes is impossible, I'm saying it would take a lot of work, and no matter how it was done, it would lead to a LOT of cases at law to hammer out the ramifications.

However, if you see any compelling business case to be made for this arrangement, you might see if you can build a social consensus. What do you have to lose?

Date: 2006/04/20 10:58:05, Link
Author: Flint
Next question: should obese people be permitted to marry? Obesity is a far worse public health problem than HIV or AIDS, so we have the disease angle. And there are studies showing that fat people are more likely to have fat children, so we have the science angle. And by HAVING fat children, obese people are surely spreading their disease even more than gay people are. And of course there is a *direct* relationship between marriage and spreading obesity, since fat people breed. And as we all know, if we outlawed "fat marriage", these people would no longer breed and would probably stop overeating and start exercising as well.

So here we have Ghost's case in every respect, plus some respects that would make his case even stronger. Sadly, when directly challenged above: How will reducing the price of these legal arrangements cause damage to society?, Ghost responded by changing the subject. Will he do it again? Is the bear Catholic?

Date: 2006/04/20 11:00:47, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Which would be what, exactly?

Already answered. The value is, society would otherwise collapse. You wouldn't want that, would you?

Date: 2006/04/20 11:16:07, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

You expected rational answers? Bad is bad, evil is evil, my opinions are infallible, gays are bad. No right-thinking person would disagree with me, therefore I'm right.

At least it's simple.

Date: 2006/04/20 11:26:36, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
You're probably not going to find physical evidence of something that it physically impossible.

Of course not. What's fascinating is that those who *expect* to find evidence of the impossible, *do* find it, and the very real evidence to the contrary, they do *not* find.

I have no problem with the notion that the flood was magic, happened in an alternate universe, or was fiction. Whatever renders it immune to actual observation is good enough for me. It's when creationists try to cram a flood into the actual observations that we get our key insight: evidence *does not matter*.

Date: 2006/04/20 13:17:10, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I'm afraid we're going in circles:

Quote
You mean you were serious with this question? Well, one reason might be...

I hope you realize you have underscored my point repeatedly. You are starting to distinguish like a Philadelphia lawyer. Yes, absolutely, post facto rationalizations can be provided FOR a policy you like, and AGAINST a policy you don't like. No two fact situations are alike. So long as we have no general principles, we can rationalize any prejudice.

Quote
Once again, you hold me to an unusually high burden of proof: If I can't prove that homosexual marriage by itself would cause a societal collapse, I have no case.

If you exaggerate this enough, you'll lose track of what I DID say, so let's not. I held you to a much lower burden of proof than you describe: I said you had no case if you could not demonstrate ANY relevant justification for charging homosexuals $10,000 for what straights get for $25. Remember? All you have to do is explain why homosexuals *deserve* to have to pay the much higher rate. As ericmurphy asked (and you also ignored), is your argument really that the loss of this income presents a financial burden to the state?

Quote
But you're assuming that allowing gay marriage won't have a positive impact on infection rates.

As a matter of fact, I'd really like it if you could find where I made this assumption. I have *explicitly and repeatedly* said that allowing marriage is a matter of equality under the law for all citizens, and infection rates is a matter of public health policies and irresponsible behavior, and that these are conceptually distinct, independent, unrelated topics!. Again, I urge you not to change the subject. I'm not willing to "look over there" and get sidetracked. I'm talking about legal equality.

Quote
Why should we assume that marriage is an unalienable right like speech or religion?

Because presumably we support American philosophical and political ideals. Because presumably we believe that all people are created equal in the eyes of the law. Now, I admit we don't need to do this. For many centuries, the British presumed that some people were born noble and others born common, and that the one could never earn the other by good works; the condition was inborn. And I suppose we could presume that marriage is a privilege granted BY the privileged TO the privileged, and that being homosexual ipso facto deprives one of that privilege, so be it, amen, period.

And if this is how you feel, then fine, SAY so. Quit trying to hide behind concerns about public health. EVEN if the ban on marriage is suppressing serious disease, banning marriage is the wrong medicine. Straights also pass STDs around very commonly, and there's no indication that banning marriage altogether would improve this condition.

So we're back where we started. As far as I can tell, you have decided a priori that same-sex marriage is wrong and bad, and now you are casting around for some rationalization for this, however irrelevant, far-fetched, counter-intuitive, unsupported by any evidence (since I grant we haven't had enough legalized gay marriage to form a statistical baseline), or otherwise persuasive or even plausible. Do you think nobody can see what you're saying? You "know" it's wrong, you are not open even to experiment, and your justifications are without merit independent of your strong prejudices. Your justifications ARE your prejudices, and every attempt you make to decouple them only emphasizes that this is the case.

Date: 2006/04/20 13:25:43, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
Believe it or not, something doesn't become true because you say it's true.

Surely you're kidding! Why, this is the ONLY way that ANYTHING EVER becomes true in the world of religion.

Quote
That's what I might call a de minimus change.

Boy howdy. In fact, one of the points homosexuals make is that NOT ONE of ANY of those 10,000+ provisions for marriage would have to change AT ALL if same-sex marriage were legalized. None of them.

Date: 2006/04/20 15:34:09, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Lurkers, please note that although liberals whine a lot about "civil" rights, they have little interest in restoring civil liberties for majority groups. Gay marriage? Oh yes, must be done, regardless of the impact on society. Freedom of association for everyone (as opposed to minority groups only, which is the situation in America)? #### no, because a few bigots might make it a little harder for minorities in some ways.

This complaint doesn't make sense to me, I admit. HOW does granting a right you have, to someone else equally deserving or not, diminish your right? YOUR marriage (if any) has not changed in any way. How is YOUR freedom of association diminished? I just don't see it. You seem to be implying that if gays have rights, you lose rights, as though this were a zero sum game, and by giving them the rights you have, you don't have them anymore. But rights are like happiness - you can make others happy and STILL be happy yourself.

Quote
I admit that if you focus narrowly on this issue, it's hard to see the harm, particularly if you also assume that the right to marriage is not the state's to give.

Confusing. What I've been talking about here is ONLY what the State has done. Maybe the "right" to marriage is part of the philosophy of equality under the law (a general principle you label "myopic", incredibly), but the legal condition of marriage is strictly a matter of State regulation and legal definition and precedent.

Quote
Marriage is not a right that springs, full grown, from the forehead of Justice, but rather a clever way for society to channel the people's sex drive for productive purposes.

Aha, we really ARE failing to communicate. Marriage is a *legal convention*, from the viewpoint of the State, to provide defaults for the distribution of property and the disposition of children. Legal marriage has nothing to do with sex, as I see it. The State isn't trying to "channel the sex drive", the State is trying to reduce the burden on the legal system.

Quote
Look: sex is necessary for reproduction. However, unbridled sex is not only unnecessary, it's downright dangerous.

And once again, a clear misunderstanding. I'm glad you've made this clear. I don't see sex and marriage as that closely tied together. From what I have read, there's a surprising number of mutually satisfying marriages where sex is no longer practiced (and in most of these, couldn't produce children anyway. Marriage in old age STILL involves the distribution of property).

Quote
Marriage ties the joy of sex to the responsibility of parenthood without causing an undue burden on unwilling participants. It bribes, yes bribes, people into behaving responsibly.

This is not what I've been talking about, but I can see that we have been talking past one another without realizing it. Marriage ties property rights to individuals, allocates legal responsibilities and privileges, simplifies probate, etc. Indeed, I'm kind of hard pressed to tie marriage to sex in the way you're saying here. If I am responsible, then I will bear children when I'm capable of raising them properly, and share the duties with someone I trust and am willing to spend that large chunk of my with with. If I am NOT responsible, committing marriage, regardless of the level of pomp and ceremony, is of no avail. I'd simply screw, breed, and bug out. What's the law going to do, really? Threaten me with property loss? If I'm irresponsible, chances are I won't have enough property to care about.

Quote
Also: If my arguments about disease, the social compact, etc are just rationalizations for a visceral dislike for gay sex, then why did I offer a compromise?

I didn't understand the compromise. I tried a few times, but still couldn't see it. Could you present it in different words? Presumably, this is what you're referring to when you speak of the 'social compact', but I'd like to understand this better.

Quote
Why am I the only one who's trying to support his case with facts?

So far, you have not done so, and I don't believe you CAN do so. If I were to produce scientific studies that fat people tend to have fat children, would that be "supporting my case" that fat people should be denied legal marriage? Would it be relevant at all?

Quote
Why am I working so hard to understand your point of view?

Believe it or not, I'm struggling to understand your point of view as well. So far, perhaps I am just dense. Here, at least I think we have made some progress. Marriage as I see it is a property arrangement. Procreation is biological, not legal. There's no real difference between children born to unwed mothers and children born in broken homes - both are raised by one or no parents.

When I decided to marry, I went down to the courthouse, paid $20, signed a form, and walked out married 10 minutes later. This was a couple decades ago, and my wife and I have never had any children. It was a property deal, plain and simple. My niece, now 45, decided to have a child and did so. Her parents never have found out who the father may have been; my niece doesn't consider this relevant. There is no shared property; marriage is moot. She is raising a wonderful son, planned it all out, is doing a fine job. And HER parents (my sister and her SO) also never married, because they never got around to it. They have wills leaving everything they have to each other; their children are long grown. Did marriage ever matter to them? SHOULD it have mattered?

(It just occurred to me that my next door neighbors just got married. They've been together 5 years, and have three children. What triggered the marriage is that they just started a small business with a bunch of inventory, investment, loans, and the like. Marriage simplified who owns what in the case of the death of either of them, and ensures that their children are beneficiaries in case they die together, since they now have something of real value to leave to their kids. A business deal. Otherwise, marriage is *entirely irrelevant*.)

And so I hope you can see that from my viewpoint, marriage is a legal condition, pure and simple, nothing else. Maybe the reason you don't respond to my question is because you don't understand what gays are asking. They are asking for the legal condition I purchased from the State for $20. That's all.

Anyway, I don't see any compromise when one side has a great deal to gain and neither side has anything to lose. I don't see that the facts you've presented are relevant to my notion of what marriage is all about, and so I'm not sure about your actions. I simply cannot see ANY plausible argument underlying your position. Maybe I'm just too much a victim, blinded by my ideology. I just know that essentially similar arguments have been made against freeing slaves, interracial marriage, enfranchising women, and the like. Always with what the heel-draggers consider good and sufficient cause.

But I did learn something here. For you, marriage is where sex happens (my position: false, weirdly false), if sex is not properly and narrowly channeled, society suffers (my position: almost surely false), marriage is NOT about property (my position: almost entirely false), condoning gay marriage will increase infection rates (my position: absurd! MUCH more likely that it will not change anyone's behavior in any visible way), and therefore, given this chain whose links aren't even in the same time zone, marriage should be denied. I remain dumbfounded. Maybe you aren't rationalizing a visceral dislike or a religious training, but in all sincerety, if that's not the reason, I'm going to have to start fishing in the waters of psychopathology. Because I'm otherwise defeated in my effort to make sense of this.

Date: 2006/04/21 02:41:08, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
I find it a little disturbing that no one would concede anything substantial (although Eric did try a little).

Concede what, and to whom? "Concessions" are only meaningful if your assumptions are correct. As I have explained, what I'm arguing for is to change a win-lose situation into a win-win situation *at no cost to anyone and great benefit to some*. Are you saying that those who neither gain nor lose (according to my assumptions) must nonetheless volunteer to lose something to meet your assumptions?

Quote
I believe that legalization of gay marriage will lead to diminished freedom for everyone else down the road (including, ironically, gay people themselves).

OK, this is the crux of the matter. So far, I haven't seen any trace of either (1) what anyone might conceivably lose; or (2) how that might happen. I've seen your repeated assertion that everyone WILL lose, according to assumptions I can't attach to any underlying reality.

I understand that some people regard previous extensions of civil rights to identified groups (blacks, women) to have been a net cost. I also understand that the net cost has been, THEY are no longer institutionally superior. They can no longer own slaves, and women tend to vote slightly more to the left than men. Terrible social cost, eh?

Russell:

Quote
So forgive me if this is covering old territory, but what this is code for? What conservatives' freedom of association is being blocked?

While this question is old territory, any *answer* to this question would be new and exciting. So far, the closest we have come is "I assume I would lose freedom of association, I won't say why or how, I assume this, and it's your fault for not conceding the truth of my assumption." I think this is where we reach the end of the road.

Date: 2006/04/21 04:34:26, Link
Author: Flint
Chris:

Quote
There seems to be an assumption that more people will be gay if it is 'normalized'. Im sure more people will be openly gay who wouldn't have been before, but I can guarentee that they were still having sex with men, and in my experience gay people who are not openly gay are more likely to be promiscuos because they are not able to have a steady relationship.

I don't think there's an assumption that more people will be gay, which seems to be an involuntary condition from very early in life. I think instead the assumption is that without the stigma of social disapproval, more people with homosexual tendencies will experiment with their inclinations, since they would face less risk of social rejection. And I'd be willing to consider that more experimenters means more opportunity for disease to be spread, even to the heterosexual community.

So the next chain in the argument seems to be that the State's official sanction of same-sex marriage would go a long way toward (or at least sharply start the process of) alleviating the pure blind bigotry thordaddy epitomizes. Ghost surely relies on the many thordaddies' totally brainless hatred to serve as his spear-carriers.

But I don't think current State marriage policies really affect gay relationships very much. The desire to be part of a loyally monogamous partnership isn't something the State can possibly either give you, or deny you.

What I don't see is how the possibility of greater prevalence of certain serious diseases is a valid reason to deny due process of law. If anything, this would incite more effective public health programs. I think Ghost has made a deal with the devil here.

Date: 2006/04/21 05:24:14, Link
Author: Flint
Stephen:

Since Ghost doesn't seem to be around right now, I'll play devil's advocate and guess in his stead, probably wildly wrong:

Quote
How is one persons right to refuse service to another "freedom of asociation"? What about the freedom of the person refused service?

The argument isn't that there is a one-to-one correspondence between a gay person being granted equal rights, and Ghost losing that right. The argument is that permitting gay marriage is Yet Another Step in the gradual deterioration of the national moral fiber. Gays face discrimination over more than marriage; they face a lot of de facto discrimination from the national thordaddy army. Overcoming that sort of discrimination typically means affirmative action type programs, increasingly intrusive and micromanaging legislation. "What, your company has no gays, when gays represent 3% of your local population? You are ipso facto discriminating, you must hire 11 gays and pay a fine. THEN, of course, you must associate with those gays we made you hire *whether you want to or not.* You must not discriminate against them in promotions, wage scales, benefits, or any other way. And to make sure you don't, you must submit (in triplicate) a zillion forms and hire an extra lawyer to handle it, and so on ad nauseum." And that's the American approach to solving social injustices.

And of course the same rules forbidding discrimination-in-practice apply to the clubs you belong to, the bars you visit, the restaurants you eat at, and everywhere else where not associating with those you don't wish to associate with constitutes illegal discrimination. Which may very well mean you can no longer avoid extensive daily association with victims of a deadly incurable disease, which may very well be getting more widespread as a result of these policies. So you're hit with a double whammy: more people have the disease, and it's basically impossible to avoid them anymore.

Yeah, you can still marry and/or befriend the people of your choice. But does that mean you pay no costs?

Date: 2006/04/21 07:53:52, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Since we're playing this game...

Quote
as you said yourself, these dire predictions about immense social upheavals (ending slavery, women's suffrage, ending anti-miscegination laws) have a history of never coming true.

But they most emphatically DID come true for certain people. Slaveowners lost *very* expensive property without recompense, and also lost what historians have determine was in fact (by about 3-4%) the most profitable way to operate their businesses. Affirmative action has cost me at least two jobs I wanted, and made another impossible to perform. It has kept qualified people out of college programs. It has obliged bigots to share bus seats with untouchables. The costs all along the line have been very real, and *on balance* quite negative for quite a few people, in their assessment. It's certainly not a slam dunk.

Yes, even despite my experiences, I find the nation a better place to live. Maybe the majority does.

And there is some suggestion in the morass of evidence that extending the vote to women accelerated the "government owes you a living" mentality exaggerated by Ghost's flavor of conservative.

My own politics are that by and large this has NOT been a net benefit for the nation. Most past social programs have been brute-force paint-over-the-symptoms efforts, requiring huge bureaucracy and stonkingly high taxes to BOTH give lots of people a fish every single day, AND ensure that whatever they do, the can NEVER learn to fish. In the name of compassion, we have been *purchasing* dependency and ignorance at great expense, both financial and human.

Part of the argument I've made is that gays have not historically been obvious enough to enable the kind of broad discrimination aimed at those (like blacks and women) visibly "not like us". Which is to say, they are NOT wildly underrepresented in most walks of life; they are even (mis)represented on TV as having unusually good taste. Compare how gays are depicted on TV and in movies with (shudder) motorcyclists or (even today) Germans.

So I think Ghost's worries have some basis in precedent, but he's targeting a population where these concerns are only very weakly applicable. And he seems to recognize this, so he focuses instead on the potential for the spread of disease. And I don't see any compelling reason to accept that prediction. Doesn't mean I'm right, but denial of marriage is STILL not an appropriate response to a public health issue.

Date: 2006/04/21 08:11:23, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
What if a lack of proportional representation is not due to bigotry, but simply an example of bad logic wedded to innumeracy.

Not sure I understand what step you're asking me to take here. Surely (just as an example) whites are WAY underrepresented in the NBA, while blacks are essentially nonexistent in the NHL. Nobody is (at least to my knowledge) charging discrimination in either case. Why not?

Quote
In other words, probability predicts an unequal distribution of groups across industries absent culture. And as we know, culture is never absent.

You are surely correct. Culture combined with stochastics will mean a highly unequal representation of EVERY identifiable group nearly everywhere. And so, like you, I oppose the simplistic approach of trying to impose equal representation in opposition to normal trends and forces having nothing to do with bigotry. I much prefer that where bigotry clearly exists, redress should be possible.

But I can't believe your argument is that to avoid trying to battle this tar baby case by case, we should institutionalize bigotry. That cure is much worse than the disease.

As I told ericmurphy, I think the connection you're trying to draw is too weak to carry the weight you give it. Gays are really not facing much of that sort of discrimination. Yes, my personal conviction that affirmative action got out of hand, doesn't counter the fact that it DID get out of hand. I just don't see it as being the case that gays lack objective merit at job requirements across the board, and so there's no need to cram those who LACK merit into positions that require it, in the hopes that someday maybe it will kind of happen somehow.

So we're reached an impasse: I claim (in the absence of any supporting national experience) that extending legal marriage to gays will prove satisfactory and sufficient, and change nothing about anyone's behavior. You claim (in equal absence of experience) that granting legal marriage will initiate a cascade of unpleasant reactions.

Perhaps we should both turn a careful eye toward Massachusetts. The experience there may well provide a strong indication as to whose anticipations are the more accurate. What do you think?

Date: 2006/04/21 09:33:32, Link
Author: Flint
Well, it's hard to resist shooting fish in barrels:

Quote
Are the "gay" advocates

No gay advocates here. Equal rights under the law advocates only.

Quote
really claiming that ALL ADULT UNIONS are equal to each other

In principle, probably. Depends on how the law would be modified to accommodate them. Same-sex unions require no legal modifications, so there's no speculation there. They are equal. Period.

Quote
and the ONE MAN/ONE WOMAN has no inherent value above and beyond the infinite number of other potential adult unions?

Nope, one man/one woman has no inherent value above and beyond any legal marriage (according to current legal provisions encompassing legal marriage) involving any two consenting adults.

Changing the scope of marriage to allow MORE than two consenting adults would entail rewriting a great many regulations and policies. Whether or not the result is desirable would depend on how these policies were modified.

Quote
This question will be avoided like the plague.

Obviously not so. Current marriage regulations (all 10,000+ of them) can equally accommodate any 2-adult relationship, without change. That's because any such relationships ARE the same, in the eyes of the law. And when you get over 10,000 detailed differences, we're talking about a legal coverage as specific as a paint job on a car. If that paint job fits another car *without changing whatsoever*, you have two identical cars.

And the conclusion is unavoidable: ALL current detailed legalities apply to ANY 2-adult relationship, regardless of gender. Nothing needs to change except the bigotry.

Date: 2006/04/21 09:38:30, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
But whining about poor, oppressed white people  suffering at the hands of state-sponsored discimination just doesn't resonate with me.

I don't think that's really the complaint here. What I'm reading is a kind of chain-reaction where affirmative action will serve to insert gays into society pervasively enough to make them hard to avoid, while simultaneously encouraging them to spread disease more effectively, thus exposing us normal people unnecessarily.

The whole thing smells like a "keep them in their place and avoid trouble before it starts" argument.

Date: 2006/04/21 09:46:58, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Eh? Allowing freedom of association is institutionalising bigotry? Who's making unwarranted assumptions now?

We seem to have a terminology issue. How does *forbidding* gay people from marrying translate to "allowing freedom of association"? I doubt even George Orwell could have connected them this way.

Quote
But all we have to fear.....is fear itself - right guys?

Again, I don't quite see your point. In the cited case, I agree with the judge. In fact, I think the whole idea of "hate crimes" is much too difficult to define, to be supportable. If someone commits a crime, they should be punished for the crime they commited *irrespective* of any purported hateful motivation they may harbor.

But where is your problem specifically?

Date: 2006/04/21 10:25:57, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Tons of research document how children suffer when they are raised illegitimately; I won't insult your intelligence by citing it.

You sure know how not to make a point. So OK, are you saying that gays should be permitted to marry but not raise children? Or that they shouldn't be permitted to marry until AFTER they have adopted children? Just exactly what relationship exists in your mind between gay marriage and illegitimate children that you are taking so much for granted you didn't even need to say it?

Quote
Marriage is not a right one has, it is a privilege one earns.

OK, I'll bite. Let's say you are gay, you have been living with a steady partner for a decade or two, and you wish to marry him. What *additional hoops* do you think you should jump through, to earn this 'privilege'? A 'privilege' that, if you were NOT gay, you'd have 'earned' simply by being born - EVEN IF you were in jail for child molestation!

Quote
But if nontraditional groups wish to marry, shouldn't others have the right to shield themselves from the consequences of granting that right?

WHAT consequences? Again, you take these things so much for granted you don't seem to understand that you are the ONLY one who can find anything to worry about, or even *define* what *might* happen, to worry about. How are two committed people in a marriage causing you consequences you need to be shielded from? What ARE these consequences? How are those two committed people less responsible than you are? How are they so MUCH less responsible than the child molester in prison that they should be denied what the child molester is not? PLEASE make sense.

Quote
how many names did you recognise?

None of them.

Date: 2006/04/21 10:39:13, Link
Author: Flint
I did make the effort to look up Ghost's names, all but 2 of which are track and field athletes mentioned only during the Olympics. Klitschko is a boxer.

I admit the point escapes me. I'm a baseball fan, and I'm sure I could name half a dozen members of the World Series champion White Sox that Ghost has never heard of. So?

Meanwhile, in that same post, I realize that Ghost and I are talking past one another once again. I agreed that granting equal legal rights to gays would have legal ramifications, which (as in Sweden) would need to be hammered out case by case over time. I suggested that knowing in advance that this happens, ought not to be justification for denying equal rights altogether. Apparently Ghost believes otherwise -- *provided*, of course, HE isn't the one denied due process... HE 'earns' the 'privilege' of marriage by, well, because. So there.

Date: 2006/04/24 02:52:48, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
For example, the 1965 Immigration Act only sought to extend immigration to other ethnic groups. The bill's supporters assured the American public that the results would be inconsequential. However, the effects have been dramatic, and American society has been completely transformed as a result. We certainly live in very interesting times. So why can't we assume a similar result from extending marriage rights?

Uh, because I don't think it's particularly valid to say that because a law that *changes* what people are doing has had dramatic consequences, a laws that does *not* change what people are already doing will also have such consequences. These arguments are getting increasingly far-fetched. It's probably not worth mentioning (being beside the point as usual) that drastic consequences in regions of rapid immigration have been due to *illegal* immigration, not as a consequence of the 1965 Act.

So here we have as close as I can come to Ghost's chain of reasoning: If we sanction what people are doing now anyway, this will *still* cause massive changes in existing behavior by rewarding certain types of behavior. And the types of behavior being rewarded are exactly the changes we WANT to see, but this will nonetheless cause unspecified changes to unspecified people, on a large scale, broadly destructive in unspecified ways. Conversely, punishing the kind of behavior we desire will retain social stability becase, well, because it will.

So I'm with ericmurphy on this one. Ghost "knows" reducing the cost of monogamous relationships will cause Bad Things in a part of his brain not open to any alternatives. His reasoning faculties don't *make* this decision, they can only seek to rationalize it. When the position itself not only lacks merit, but is directly antithetical to his nominal goals (stable relationships, reduction in promiscuity, control of disease), the results would be comical if they weren't so sad.

He seems to have no choice here. His training *requires* that he seek to punish the behavior he desires, and his intellect is tasked to "explain" why this will work, and rewarding that behavior will fail. Is it any wonder these
"explanations" oscillate between fatuous and irrelevant?

Date: 2006/04/24 03:32:58, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
It is also baffling to me how evolutionists cannot see evidence for a global flood.

Because, of course, there is no such evidence. One must defend ignorance of hydrology and geology vigorously to maintain the pretense. This is really fascinating. If the bible hadn't mentioned a flood, nobody looking at the evidence on the ground would ever have had even the slightest cause to suspect one.

Ah well, faith is believing what you know ain't so. "It's when creationists try to cram a flood into the actual observations that we get our key insight: evidence *does not matter*." I see no reason to change this observation. We're not looking at stupid here, we're looking at genuine organic brain damage. Since the only weapon science has (evidence) is utterly useless against this sort of damage, why bother arguing?

Date: 2006/04/24 05:10:50, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
2) Flint and Hyland: how are you prepared to deal with some of the negative effects of extending the franchise, i.e. loss in free speech and hiring rights? I don't think a case-by-case method will work here.

So far, your argument that reducing the cost of legal marriage for homosexuals will have these negative effects is to SAY that these effects are negative and that they will happen. Yes, we understand that you believe such things will come to pass. We understand that for you what you believe WILL happen has already happened.

But some plausible mechanism would be welcome. Loss ot free speech rights? You mean, like the KKK lost the right to march through black neighborhoods? You mean, like the anti-abortionists lost the right to protest at clinics? What DO you mean?

As for hiring, this 'loss' seems to depend on whether you're the employer or the applicant. I'm aware that legal efforts to enforce equality of results have had an ambiguous track record. But once again (you know, I tire of repeating things you ignore), I'm not aware that gays ARE facing hiring discrimination.

Attempting to anticipate potential negative side effects of beneficial policies isn't foolish in itself. Forewarned is forearmed, etc. But *assuming the worst* and then discarding beneficial policies because the worst (in your view of course, not perhaps in the view of most people) is all you're willing to consider, is what bigotry is all about.

Quote
I'm gonna try to flesh out my model, cause I realise it's a little sketchy at this point.

You might, just maybe, consider that the reason your model is 'sketchy' is because it is WRONG, and is really an artifact of assuming results contrary to fact. All you're saying here is, you've become aware that you haven't fully manufactured all the "facts" necessary to support a foregone conclusion that's beyond your ability to question.

Date: 2006/04/24 05:13:53, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Which is a direct consequence of the Act. Remember, the borders were just as "open" 50 years ago, but only after the Act's passage has enforcement become problematic.

I disagree. The Act and the illegal immigration stem from the same underlying causes - demographic changes, mobility changes, economic changes. What you're doing here is backwards as usual. Like saying "back before there was burglary, nobody had any locks on their doors. Note that locks corresponded with increased burglary. Therefore, burglary is a direct consequence of locks." I really have to wonder sometimes...

Date: 2006/04/24 05:17:02, Link
Author: Flint
Voice:

Yes, it highlights the qualitative difference between persuasion and conversion.

Date: 2006/04/24 07:40:51, Link
Author: Flint
Russell:

"Freedom of association" is shorthand for: IF we let gays marry, they'll get their foot in the door and demand *just as many rights as you have*, on the silly grounds that given equal opportunities, gays can achieve equal competence. And the government will then promulgate regulations requiring proportional representation everywhere, even when it can be demonstrated that merit or qualifications are insufficient.

Now, in the case of blacks, I think Ghost has a case: regulations have in fact established quotas that simply cannot be achieved if we ALSO require competitive merit. And the justification is that if we don't place a proportional number of blacks (or more, which is always fine) into positions they are not competent to perform today, then they will NEVER be given the opportunity to obtain the desired competence.

And there is some pretty solid data backing this up: Before affirmative action, obtaining a college or graduate degree was pretty useless in getting an appropriate job. As John Griffin documented so eloquently, when he painted himself black, not all his degrees, publications or accomplishments could get him employed. Additionally, many of the positions that government regulation has pried and wedged open for blacks are positions nearly anyone can develop reasonable competence at in a matter of a few months to a year.

But is the statistically undeniable success of affirmative action type programs a Good Thing? Absolutely NOT! Why, it forces us to *associate* with blacks on our jobs, in our clubs, at our restaurants, why, it has become nearly impossible avoid seeing these people.

And there you have it. Freedom of association means "keeping those we don't like in their place by denying them rights, opportunities and due process of law, so that we don't have to associate with them." In other words, it's freedom of OUR association, at the cost of theirs.

Now, as for how reducing the cost of establishing the legal condition of marriage will somehow lead to Ghost having to risk associating with gay people, what we're looking at is a general trend. We are changing a custom, and changing customs leads to Bad Things. Change itself is bad.

Think of winning the lottery. By observation, this very often leads people into serious troubles; a high percentage (perhaps the majority) end up even LESS happy than they used to be. Therefore, lottery winnings should only be awarded to those who DON'T NEED them.

Date: 2006/04/24 08:23:08, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Just to play devil's advocate, this isn't exactly true.

Yes, I suppose you're right. As I read it, the data were puzzling for a while. One the one hand, there were seashells on mountaintops, so the water must have got up there somehow. On the other hand, these shells were delicate items perfectly preserved, whereas floods invariably pulverize everything. Not an easy puzzle to solve, I admit.

Evidence of glaciation also has been confusing. Clearly glaciers have left behind the kinds of things floods do - moving large rocks long distances, causing water-type erosion, etc.

And of course, ancient peoples had a great deal of experience with floods - they lived in fertile flood plains, so floods were annual events and some of them were pretty serious. Given all this, it would be surprising if cultures worldwide did NOT have flood-oriented Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan tales.

During the early 1800s, geologists took Noah's Flood for granted, and "found" it wherever they looked -- except for those little details like the perfectly preserved shells. But over the course of 50-60 years, the sheer number of confounding details got too extensive and  pervasive to tune out anymore. An explanation more consistent with all known evidence needed to be developed.

And so, we're back to the response of people when confronted with evidence. Does it matter, or not?

Date: 2006/04/24 09:02:17, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I hope you realize what you produced is NOT a reponse? You said what "freedom of association" is NOT. It's not a code, it does not have the meaning of not associating with people, it's not like some other unrelated invidious comparison that it's not like, and Russell is a pinko and an infant for even asking what you meant. Now, what you DO mean remains as much as mystery as ever.

I took a guess, and I notice you didn't comment on that either.

Date: 2006/04/24 09:54:54, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
You guys can think what you wish, but I'm going to fight for my civil liberties just as fiercely as ever.

Believe me or not, but I suggest that you do NOT gain civil liberties by denying them to others, but rather quite the contrary. You do not become more free by increasing the number of people denied freedom.

As I wrote earlier, this isn't a zero sum game, where you must give up a civil liberty so that someone else can get one. You live in a land of freedom by GRANTING freedom. I simply can't understand why you find that concept so baffling.

ericmurphy:

I also despair of ever getting the point across that rewarding the undesired behavior and penalizing the desired behavior does NOT achieve the target goals, but in fact works directly against them. George Orwell would have felt right at home. I'm coming to the conclusion that thordaddy is taking the high road of honesty here, and Ghost is trying to *trick* himself into thinking he's outsmarted his own training.

Fighting for civil liberties indeed.  Ghost argues that if he can blind enough people, his own vision will be better protected. That he can live in a land of peace if he chops up enough people with his sword. That he can achieve quiet if he continuously bellows for it through a bullhorn.

However, I think the time is rapidly approaching when yet another group will be granted equal rights.

Date: 2006/04/24 10:22:40, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
True, in theory, civil rights are not a zero-sum game. But on planet Earth, they often are.

So you're saying, sometimes, under some circumstances, the practice defies the theory. And I agree with this: If there were no restrictions on what the majority could vote for, they could vote themselves a dictatorship - one time. If we allowed the free market to be totally free, and if some quack claiming to be a brain surgeon botches the job, then just go to someone else next time, the market will eventually eliminate the quack!

So, as we tried to discuss a long ways back, we're talking about what the default should be, and what mechanisms should we have in place in case the practice isn't what the theory predicts.

And here I think we can't ever quite get together. You take it for granted that UNTIL some group can demonstrate that having a specific right doesn't make things worse, they should be denied that right. The fact that they can't demonstrate until they have the right doesn't seem to impress you any.

I don't think Chris's question is answered by your model of how just about any imaginable change you don't like will inevitably lead to social collapse. Yes, Chris is assuming the same default I am: that equality under the law is the proper default, and that people should LOSE rights individually and for cause, not fail to be granted rights broadly and for no clear reason beyond fear of change.

Date: 2006/04/24 11:41:06, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
I already cited the case of Ake Green, which you largely ignored. Here are some more:

OK, I'm willing to address this directly. You're absolutely right, if things continue as they are, your freedom to discriminate, to hate, to impose double standards, to deny people rights because you don't like those people, and so on will erode away. And in the effort to impose by fiat a golden rule Christians such as yourself just can't bring yourself to follow when it doesn't suit you, silly injustices will happen, overreactions will be unavoidable, and those who WISH to hate and discriminate will be inconvenienced when they try to do so. MUCH better that those systematically discriminated against bear all the ill treatment. Provided, of course, you aren't one of them.

But I'll join the chorus here, asking you how those terrible impositions will arise by reducing the cost of legal marriage.

(Incidentally, I think John Leo's collection of material is a most wonderful illustration of the Biblical injunction that you reap what you sow. Much (but not all) of that material is simply pointing to what happens when *the shoe is on the other foot*, and Christians are being done unto as they did unto others. When THEY are the target, why, THEN our freedoms are eroding. Imagine that!;))

Date: 2006/04/25 02:44:05, Link
Author: Flint
Here's another case of rights activists trying to undermine traditional marriage. Man, it's happening everywhere!

Date: 2006/04/25 03:22:02, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost argues that reducing the cost of legal gay marriage will rapidly lead to pro-gay affirmative action programs on steroids. This argument seems to be based on two assumptions:

1) The US government will simply adopt the racial model as-is.
2) This model as implemented has been a Terrible Thing ™ because the undeniable rights some people have gained have in fact violated others' right to DENY them those rights.

The reasonable point has been made (by Ghost) that normal variations in taste and preference, combined with the general stochastic distribution process, is guaranteed to produce unequal representation of ALL groups across ALL professions and pastimes, *even if* everyone started out absolutely equal.

The equally reasonable point has been raised (by ericmurphy) that a combination of factors can be appropriately used to determine whether unequal results derive from natural processes. For example, when desirable positions held by large numbers of people have essentially NO representation by some group. And/or when members of that group are actively, visibly attempting to achieve these results in large enough numbers to see that they are actively, visibly being excluded.

It seems that Ghost is very carefully dodging this question, as well as other issues. If Ghost were himself gay, would he use his same grounds to defend the process of denying him equal rights? Would he be so vocal in supporting those who pronounce him perverted, subhuman, or second-class? Would he enjoy paying taxes to a government that refuses to let him marry, on the grounds that if he HAD equal rights, someone somewhere *might* feel they were losing their "freedom of association"?

Earlier, I raised what I considered a genuine consideration, and Ghost's care in ignoring it convinces me it's meaningful. The conservatives ARE reaping what they sowed. The politics of exclusion and privilege eventually triggers a reaction. To the degree that this reaction is stifled, it becomes an OVER reaction. When the conservatives refuse to concede even an inch, eventually the overreaction obliges them to give more than they ever would have needed to.

And thus Ghost's prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. Compromise, and the world compromises with you. Dig in your heels and concede nothing, and the world must fight, with an intensity inversely proportional to your willingness to consider a quid pro quo. And THEN, Ghost turns around and says "I told you so. I told you those homosexuals would demand the moon."

So we're back to ericmurphy's observation - the key factor isn't whether we see over or underrepresentation and conclude ipso facto discrimination. The key factor is whether potentially qualified people are being visibly, actively excluded from either achieving those qualifications, or practicing them.

"Freedom of association" is indeed code, and it is code for "protection of privilege." As an example, there is a qualitative difference between wanting to spend your time with like-minded people, and making sure that people who are not of like mind MUST spend their time in separate and *very inferior* conditions. When freedom of association means YOU get to go where and do what YOU want, and those with whom you don't wish to associate do NOT get to go where or do what THEY want, then this is protection of privilege. Not the same thing.

Date: 2006/04/25 04:25:06, Link
Author: Flint
What's amusing to me is how strenuously Ghost works to *avoid* saying "We deny equal rights to gays in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!"

But much of my education is in political processes, so I see this as an exercise in political negotiation. I suppose if your background is more in math, you can laugh at self-serving "mathmatical" models. Thordaddy seems to be operating on the kneejerk-reflex model.

I personally see Ghost as using a political approach: If we grant gays equal rights, they will *use* those rights, which means we may have to treat them as we ourselves wish to be treated, which impinges on our freedom and liberty to prevent this.

But at least Ghost doesn't seem to be trying very hard to make a broad or inclusive case here. He personally has a narrow privilege, and if those he dislikes were granted the same, he would necessarily LOSE his privilege. And unlike rights, privilege IS a zero-sum game. Privileges are like secrets: if you tell, you still have the information but you lose the secret.

Date: 2006/04/25 04:51:30, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
It's a really simple question, guys

This is true, and the answer is equally simple. Superstition starts being taught MUCH younger than science. Even so, science is very much an acquired viewpoint, because it doesn't come easily to humans - science requires people to *admit error* and to *change their minds based on evidence*, something few people are willing to do.

And I notice we happen to have Exhibit A right here in this thread. By clear illustration, he answers his own question.

Date: 2006/04/25 05:24:36, Link
Author: Flint
You understand, wrong answers aren't answers at all. Only right answers are answers. And the pattern follows the lawyer's dictum: Never ask a question if you don't already know the answer.

Date: 2006/04/25 07:34:40, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
He doesn't like gays, they repulse him and the bible says it's wrong, and that's why he opposes gay marriage. Anything else is a dishonest post-facto argument.

Considering how very very selectively verses are extracted from their biblical contexts, I'd omit that last step. As we've surely all seen too many times to count, IF someone disapproves of something, AND they are religious Believers of the intolerant persuasion, THEN they will find and interpret some verbiage from the bible to ratify their gut reactions.

For the most part, Ghost hasn't waved his bible around; he apparently realizes that his enemies regard it as a book of ancient local superstitions and *continue to think* even when confronted with it. He has generally stuck with overstretched special pleading, hazy fears of dominos, and taking it for granted that the rest of us (even if we don't admit it) share his desire to retain privilege.

There is without question a goodly number of fellow conservatives combing the media (including the net) for examples where overreactions to bigotry have occurred; these are collected in a few places. I suppose the idea is, if we skim the worst offenders off the top and represent them as typical, we're doing a fair representation of what we should be concerned about.

Date: 2006/04/25 09:49:05, Link
Author: Flint
I seem to have mislaid the train of thought here. Yes, absolutely there are racial tensions, racially motivated crimes, and purely racial atrocities. Was anyone saying these things don't exist?

Now, all we need is some indication that granting interracial marriages are the root cause of these crimes. Hey, I'd even be happy if it could be demonstrated that the elimination of slavery was the origin of race-based atrocities. Or perhaps it was the growth of affirmative action programs that led to all this. But I just can't see it.

Are racial tensions worse today than they were 40 years ago? 80 years ago? 120 years ago? What basis of comparison should we use to answer this? News stories? But news reporting has itself changed dramatically over time. How about membership in the KKK? Representation on voting rolls? Life expectancy? Relative median income? Years of education? Anything?

I wonder if Ghost could have come up with any cases, from anywhere in history, where white people committed atrocities on black people. Any? Do you suppose he thinks that if he omits any mention of this, THEREFORE granting civil rights was the cause of everything done for racial reasons ever since?

What is the point of this list? That some people are violent for bigoted reasons, and THEREFORE we should institutionalize bigotry? Is that really the argument here?

Date: 2006/04/25 10:45:03, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
What on Earth has that got to do with legalising gay marriage?

My best guess is that Ghost is having trouble finding appropriate material on his usual self-serving sites. Or maybe he has been reading too much thordaddy, and has forgotten that staying on topic, answering questions, and avoiding non-sequiturs works better in forwarding discussions.

According to my display settings, he's been threatening to support his position for 20 pages now...

Date: 2006/04/25 11:10:48, Link
Author: Flint
Russell:

Apparently, something you said contained a keyword which triggered an avalanche of irrelevance. AI systems have this problem...

Date: 2006/04/26 02:46:52, Link
Author: Flint
Media bias is an interesting charge, since bias is inherent in the human condition. So of course we have conservatives complaining that the media are liberal, and liberals complaining that the media are conservative. We have Fox News, a somewhat mainstream echo of the WeirdNutDaily, and we have CNN, sometimes referred to as the Communist News Network. What we do NOT have is anything we can point to and say it's the "generic media bias."

Additionally, since we as individuals are all biased, we tend to have different sensitivities. Blacks attack whites and Fox reports it, Ghost tunes it out. It's not bias, it's reporting the facts. Invert the color of those involved, CNN reports it, and it's liberal bias.

The principle, such as it is, is fairly straightforward. A media bias means less press coverage of stories we wish to see exaggerated, and more coverage of stores we wish to see ignored.

Now, as others have pointed out, the connection between the media NOT being ENTIRELY biased in Ghost's preferred direction, and prohibiting gay marriage, has never been remotely made. Even if we grant that Ghost is not simply changing the subject rather than answering simple questions, we must take some connection on faith - Ghost certainly hasn't supplied any.

Maybe Faid has it right. Gay marriage is simply a symptom of how tolerance for those we dislike poisons our society somehow. The media not being biased entirely according to Ghost's preferences is another symptom of the evils of equality and tolerance. The golden rule was obviously only meant to apply to equals, and WE get to decide who's too inferior to be equal. If we don't recover from this destructive course, the time may come when Ghost is on as close to equal footing as anyone else.

This great nation was founded on *discrimination*. White male landowners ran it, the slaves were property, women were chattel, the poor couldn't vote, gays were beneath notice, and even the votes of the privileged 8% (white adult male landowners) were filtered through a body of electors for both President and Senate to make sure nobody was elected to any important office who was not properly representative of the ruling class.

And the dang kneejerk liberal idiots have, over the course of time, wrecked this wonderful system. They have *defined* all these inferior and even subhuman groups as being actual people. Every step along the way has been for the worse. Permitting gay marriage, in and of itself, may not be the proximate cause of catastrophe, but it's without question a newsworthy step in the same downhill direction we've been stumbling along for so many years. You have to put your fingers in the dikes wherever leaks develop.

This entire argument sounds like a general version of the Christian Persecution Complex (CPC), whereby anyone not enthusiastically pimping for nominal Christian social goals is regarded as "out to get them". Pluralistic multicultural live-and-let-live goals are WRONG, because anyone not part of the solution is part of the problem.

Ghost's "I used to be a liberal" claims sound a lot like the "I used to be an atheist before I let Christ into my heart" variety. Neither is really credible, from someone who clearly has no clue what tolerance is or what the golden rule actually means.

Date: 2006/04/26 04:42:44, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
But to my knowledge no one has ever observed a gorilla evolving the ability to speak French, German and English.  I've never seen a female chimpanzee evolve to the point where a red-blooded, male college student would say "hubba-hubba" and ask one out on a date

Buried in here is the ever-underlying presumption that evolution is the morphing of some existing organism into another existing organism. In this case, afdave is complaining that gorillas haven't evolved the human ability to speak, or that chimpanzees haven't evolved human sexual cues. But humans are NOT the "evolutionary model" which gorillas and chimps have so far failed to achieve.

Creationists have difficulty with more than the slow rate of evolution (few clearly new species have evolved since humans have even existed at all; that's MUCH too short a time to see any extensive biological change). They also seem unable to comprehend that all lifeforms that have ever existed (including all those existing today) are evolving into something never seen before, entirely novel. They NEVER evolve into one another.

Date: 2006/04/26 07:32:59, Link
Author: Flint
So now, if I'm reading this correctly, the villain isn't the liberals, it's those whose cultures for one reason or another work against homogeneity. This includes those who both hold and *believe* foreign religions, those whose skin color militates against blending in, those whose sexual orientations prevent them from assimilating, etc. We're not trying to discriminate against those able and willing to be like us, only against those who either CAN not or WILL not behave properly (i.e. the way we prefer).

And gays are like Muslims - they are irretrievably different. Not their fault, necessarily, but we certainly don't wish to sully our culture or society by granting them equal rights. They do not deserve equal rights, and never can.

The more Ghost says, the closer he and thordaddy become in presentation as well as prejudice.

Date: 2006/04/26 07:40:53, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Yes, Flint, Western society is inherently evil and we'd be much better if we destroyed it as soon as possible.

You might be more credible if you addressed the point I was making rather than dodging it once again. I listed quite a few groups deprived of equality originally. For the most part, each group has had to fight like wet cats past people like yourself to gain anything, which lo and behold have made the nation even stronger. Now it's happening once again, and people like yourself demonstrate your ability to learn from the past - none whatsoever.

Quote
All cultures are equal.

This is not quite honest. All cultures are *different*, and all cultures change over the course of time. But you seem to be trying to say that some cultures are WORSE, without actually saying this directly. If you would say what you mean rather than make us keep doing it for you, we could discuss this stuff a lot better, you know.

Yes, allowing gay marriage will change our culture minimally (since the goal is to grant legal recognition to relationships that already exist, changing nothing meaningful). This is only worrisome if different EQUALS worse. Yes, we know you have this equation branded into your hindbrain. You take it absolutely for granted.

And so we keep asking: where is the harm? And you keep answering "take my word for it." Basically, that's the ONLY argument you have.

Date: 2006/04/26 07:47:52, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
If that was the case, I'd be against Indian immigration. Cultural differences, on the other hand, are important, easily distinguishable, and very resistant to change.

The Indians don't have a different culture? Golly. They speak a different language, worship different gods, have a very different history, sacred cows wander the streets, reincarnation is taken for granted, but these are not cultural differences? Or are you saying that these are superficial differences, easy to discard? Or are you saying that those brought up in a totally different culture are OK but gays brought up as (and fully accepting of) American culture should be denied rights granted to Indians? You expect anyone to take this at face value?

Now, we also happen to be aware that your religion, virulently bigoted against gays, is silent on Indians. We're not supposed to notice this, or maybe we're supposed to consider this pure coincidence.

(As a footnote, Indian marriage customs have been a LOT more different from American customs than anything gays have even begun to ask for. But let's pretend...)

Date: 2006/04/26 08:11:48, Link
Author: Flint
As often as it has been pointed out, it's still interesting that even the most religion-addled creationist lives 99+% of their lives by drawing probabilistic conclusions from evidence and acting accordingly. If this were not the case, they couldn't function even to the point of swallowing food.

So what we have is narrowly constrained territories of reflexive denial, where the normal process is simply not permitted to be considered. Territories where predefined absolutes are simply beyond anything resembling question, analysis, or reason.

For the terminally creationist, evolution is one of those territories. It can't be true because it IS NOT TRUE. Period. Evidence and the implications of evidence are powerless to cross the border into this territory.

And so it's amusing to watch people deploy evidence and reason against positions evidence and reason played no part in cementing. These are the wrong weapons. The way out of these black holes isn't through persuasion, but through conversion.

Date: 2006/04/26 09:10:02, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
EDIT: BTW. I believe in integration rather than multi-culturism. Now please get back to the gay marriage argument or start another thread.

The best-fit explanation I can find for this, is an effort to change the subject because Ghost simply has no good response for any of our direct questions, and knows that honest responses are guaranteed to make him look bad.

As for multi-culturalism/integration, this is certainly not a binary condition. What we're talking about his how thoroughly assimilation takes place, which aspects of a culture that does not assimilate well are important, how long assimilation takes, etc. So far, I haven't heard Ghost complain about the Amish, although they have rejected core American values completely. Maybe it's because their own (non-assimilated) value system isn't perceived as a threat? Or maybe because their practices, unique as they are, press none of Ghost's hot buttons?

What Ghost seems concerned about is groups that can not assimilate in key (i.e., rub Ghost the wrong way)respects, and are ALSO pushy about it.

I wonder whether Ghost would oppose gay marriage if gays lived in self-imposed, isolated communities like the Amish, and had as little as possible to do with the culture around them.

ericmurphy:

I have the same question. I have taken my sincere best guess about Ghost's views when my questions are ignored. If lies are untruths said *knowing* they are not true, I have not told any.

Date: 2006/04/26 11:23:18, Link
Author: Flint
dave:

Science, to work at all, requires people to be able to admit error and change their minds. For this reason, I think those who can draw conclusions from evidence rather than vice versa will forever be in the tiny minority. Those in the black hole you so enjoy, surrounded by warm fuzzy ignorance, will of course continue to feast on the fruits of science while biting the hand that feeds them that fruit.

So those who value knowledge (and actually know what it is) may be employing the wrong strategy here. Trying to break through the nearly-impermeable barriers of ignorance you gloat about and penetrate all the way to the brains of every student is perhaps philosophically misinformed - it treats all citizens as potential scientists, when in reality very few can ever qualify.

So perhaps we should have two "tracks" in public school, one for those who wish to learn, and one for those who think they already know all they need to. The latter group can drop out as young as possible and attend the mega-church of their choice - which are designed by, and built of materials invented by, those former few who actually learned something.

Cyril Kornbluth suggested something similar long ago, of course.

Date: 2006/04/27 02:54:21, Link
Author: Flint
Sigh. Let's see if I have this right now. If people of the same sex can reduce the price of effective legal marriage from $10,000 down to $25, soon gays will be designated as the target for "hate crimes", and by tradition, when the "persecuted minority" is the victim, a hate crime is assumed unless proven otherwise, whereas when the minority is the perpetrator, a hate crime is NOT presumed unless proven to be the case. And since a "hate crime" is a woolly and hazy notion to begin with, "proof" of a hate crime is largely subjective.

Now, this being the case, the non-gay majority is sure to be generally depicted by the media as hating and hateful, EVEN IF their hate levels are no different or even less than the minority group, and even if they act on them no more often or even less often.

Which in turn will illustrate the inevitable double standard both in the media and in government bureacratic/law enforcement standards generally, which is in turn just the most visible portion of a systematic policy of discrimination against the majority.

In other words, in an effort to impose equality, the Grand Goverment/Media/Liberal conspiracy will effectively grant a level of privilege to the designated minority unavailable to the majority. And that privilege will be systematically and immediately abused to the majority's helpless detriment. Which is just another step down the road to social collapse.

But we can forestall this entire unAmerican chain of events. How? By charging gays $10,000 for what we charge straights $25. This ensures that very very few gays will follow through, which keeps their relationships promiscuous, which demonstrates that they lack proper American values, which shows that they can't assimilate, which is why we need to prevent them from marrying in the first place!

Well, it was roundabout, but I think we got there. We need to keep gays in their (second-class) place because if we don't, they won't be treated as second-class anymore, which they NEED to be because they ARE second class. They're GAY, for Christ's sake!

Date: 2006/04/27 04:57:19, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Just three questions and I'll leave this side issue alone:

??? This isn't a side-issue, this is the central issue we're all trying as hard as we can to get you to address: HOW will reducing the cost of legal marriage lead to problems?

Quote
3) If you answer "True" for both of the above: How is this possible under the liberal "discrimination" model?

??? Jews aren't allowed to marry? Why are you changing the subject again?

I grant there has been discrimination against Jews. Yes, the Jews have been very capable and resourceful people. Would they have been even more successful without the discrimination? How can we know?

Now, let's say we had a long-standing policy forbidding Jews from legal marriage. Do you suppose that some people could find no reason, however unrelated or self-serving, to justify this policy and resist changing it? After all, the Jews have also resisted assimilation.

But I already asked you about the Amish, and you ignored it. So I'll join Faid and everyone else and ask once again: HOW will reducing the cost of legal marriage for gays lead to problems? They are TRYING to assimilate, whereas the Jews and Amish are not. So assimilation is another irrelevance you raise to avoid answering the question.

Date: 2006/04/27 05:36:39, Link
Author: Flint
improvius:

Maybe his point is that *gay Jews* should be allowed to marry?

Date: 2006/04/27 07:30:51, Link
Author: Flint
Assume there's a god
Assume everything we observe is the way it is because god wills it to be that way
Go observe something. Anything.
Was what we observed the way it is and no other way? Yes, it was
Therefore, there's a god.

Date: 2006/04/27 07:38:42, Link
Author: Flint
Some grist for Ghost's mill here today:

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/04/27/texas.attack.ap/index.html

Quote
White teens accused of brutal racist attack

Hispanic boy left for dead

SPRING, Texas (AP) -- Two white teenagers severely beat and sodomized a 16-year-old Hispanic boy who they believed had tried to kiss a 12-year-old white girl at a party, authorities said.

The attackers forced the boy out of the house party, beat him and sodomized him with a metal pipe, shouting epithets "associated with being Hispanic," said Lt. John Martin with the Harris County Sheriff's Department.

They then poured bleach over the boy, apparently to destroy DNA evidence and left him for dead, authorities said. He wasn't discovered until Sunday, a day after the attack.

The victim, who was not identified, suffered severe internal injuries and remained in critical condition Thursday.

Date: 2006/04/27 11:26:21, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
As to my personal beliefs: if all the members of my high school graduating class want to join together in some sort of 400-strong uber-marriage, I have absolutely no problem with that...

OK, in that case you will have to argue with me as well, because I DO have at least a potential problem there. Current marriage laws (and distinctions based on marriage are truly pervasive. Those 10,000+ distinctions are blended through the US regulatory and statutory systems like egg through cake batter) simply are not set up to handle group marriages.

Now, this may or may not pose a philosophical problem, depending on how laws (and court adjudications based on them) might be reconfigured to accommodate such arrangements. Currently, "last one left alive gets everything" inheritance arrangements are *illegal* except in the case of a 2-person marriage. If three people marry and one or more children are involved (either by birth or adoption) and one adult leaves, is this a "broken home" for legal purposes? Should the remaining adults receive "single parent" assistance? Or maybe there should be a "fewer parents" program of some kind? What kind?

I don't want to plow through 10,000 provisions, but I imagine there would be precious few of these provisions that would NOT need to change to accommodate group marriage. And I think it would be a serious error to presume that all of these legal changes will have no effect on anyone else. I think it's a good bet that you WILL feel quite some impact, and a great deal of negotiation would need to ensue.  Probate alone would become a nightmare. And it would be YOUR property (or maybe should have been, or maybe not...) involved.

So for this general reason, I prefer to draw a line between changes to current marriage practices that require legal and administrative changes, and those that require none. Gay marriage is transparent to our current laws and regulations, EVEN IF the gay couple adopts children. Other changes aren't transparent at all.

Date: 2006/04/27 11:33:16, Link
Author: Flint
Yes, why bother going through these motions? All they do is make reasonable people suspicious.

Why not just simply say "Here are my religious beliefs. I hold these beliefs to be Truth as I see it. The bible says it, I believe it, that settles it for me."

If you were to do this, I submit that everyone here would understand and accept this position. Maybe even respect it, at least in the way that Dawkins respects Kurt Wise's explicit admission that evidence can never be relevant to his beliefs.

That sort of position can be honest without the need to be rational. Beliefs such as yours cannot be BOTH honest and rational; attempting to pretend to rationality only undermines your honesty while adding nothing rational to your beliefs. Is this what you really want?

Date: 2006/04/28 05:14:46, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I think humans were CREATED as the "rulers" over all other non-human life.

We seem to have nailed the heart of the problem here. Clearly, we have two totally different, mutually exclusive and incompatible conceptions of what the word "think" actually refers to. For some of us, it's a process. For others, it's the total absence of that very process.

Date: 2006/04/28 09:50:12, Link
Author: Flint
I guess the final answer to "how will gay marriage harm anyone" turns out to be "Let's go to another thread and change the subject." Which is about as rational an answer as anyone expected.

Date: 2006/04/28 10:52:08, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
What makes you think I'm done with this subject? I can only tackle one lefty delusion at a time

Because this one was first, because you haven't come within a couple of time zones of a rational answer to the same question everyone has been asking, because nobody had added anything to this thread while you had posted huge quantities on another.

Given all this, it's pretty obvious that you had little choice: you either had to answer or run. You ran. Nobody is surprised; you couldn't produce an answer you could defend.

Date: 2006/05/01 05:36:12, Link
Author: Flint
1) Let's hypothesize that humans are imaginative, and similar to one another in this way everywhere. Part of what makes them human.

2) We observe that humans imagine vaguely-human super powerful or influential beings fairly commonly. In fact, even small children do this.

3) LOGIC: We reason that people are very similar to people. They might even BE people.

4) We observe that apart from human imagination, no trace of objective evidence has EVER been discovered (despite searches so dedicated they approach desperate) of any such entities.

5) LOGIC: We reason that imagination might be producing something imaginary. Being the product of imagination, it might even BE imaginary.

Next step: testing. Fairly exhaustive tests for the actual existence of imaginary entities have so far failed to produce anything of the sort. Another test: do those humans raised to believe in evidence and observation and NOT raised to believe in the imaginary, ALSO experience the same entities? Well, no, they don't.

Date: 2006/05/01 08:19:18, Link
Author: Flint
Well, as I wrote a long ways back, Ghost is primarily concerned about *loss of privilege*. Granting equal rights to those he fears may not affect the rights he has whatsoever, but that's not the problem. The problem is, rights granted to those denied them would eliminate his privileged position. He'd suffer effective equalty.

And as I also wrote, what we're seeing in the media is a reaction to the very privilege Ghost is trying to protect. Legislating privilege generates resentment. Ghost thus demonstrates "science" in action -- if what you're doing leads to the the opposite of what you intend, do more of it.

This gets kind of boring after a while.

Date: 2006/05/01 08:51:01, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Incest derived offspring can be perfectly normal.

Haven't a good many island populations of whatever been seeded by a single pregnant female? Maybe inbreeding increases the odds of doubling bad traits, but it works the same with good traits. Maybe the resulting population is even stronger as a result (strong traits reinforce, bad traits that get reinforced die out).

Humans are willing to have plenty of disadvantageous characteristics so long as we avoid expressing them any more often than necessary. Trading one extraordinarily capable person for one congenital loser is considered a Bad Trade. But that's social, not biological.

Date: 2006/05/01 08:51:01, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Incest derived offspring can be perfectly normal.

Haven't a good many island populations of whatever been seeded by a single pregnant female? Maybe inbreeding increases the odds of doubling bad traits, but it works the same with good traits. Maybe the resulting population is even stronger as a result (strong traits reinforce, bad traits that get reinforced die out).

Humans are willing to have plenty of disadvantageous characteristics so long as we avoid expressing them any more often than necessary. Trading one extraordinarily capable person for one congenital loser is considered a Bad Trade. But that's social, not biological.

Date: 2006/05/01 10:13:13, Link
Author: Flint
At the nearest new book store, you're likely to find at least several thousand books for $8 or less that would be a more rewarding waste of your time. Unless there's some kewl chick who wants to discuss it with you. And even so, you'd probably get more mileage just nodding and smiling...

Date: 2006/05/01 16:04:18, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I don't admit to what I didn't do.

But of course, this isn't what was stated. The statement was that you could have owned up to what you DID do.

Clearly, the statement was wrong. You CANNOT own up. Do you think lying about it fools anyone other than yourself?

This is what cripples any hope of communication here. Distort your material, get called on it, and lie reflexively. Get called on that, and deny that as well.

As I said before, you were a liberal much as creationists "used to be atheists". It's an empty posture. You don't yet seem to realize that things don't magically come true except in your own mind just because you SAY they're true.

So steve's still waiting for the promised model. I'm still waiting for any even remotely rational explanation of how granting equal rights to others costs you yours. I guess it's time to change the subject again.

Date: 2006/05/02 03:48:27, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
here is an alternative position for you to consider which I think works better.  Make the PROPOSITION (or Hypothesis, if you will) that the Bible is inerrant.

This sort of statement desperately calls for posting that wonderful cartoon where the scientist says "Here are the facts. What conclusions can we draw from them?" and the creationist says "Here are the conclusions. What facts can we find to support them?"

And here we have afdave saying "First, assume your conclusions. THEN, go out and find any *possible* support for them. If you can't find any, you just aren't trying, because the conclusions are assumed, and can't be wrong."

And RGD wants data? There we have it: doctrinal certainties optionally backed by selective misrepresentations. Optional because since the doctrine is certain, nothing else is particularly relevant anyway.

Date: 2006/05/02 03:48:27, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
here is an alternative position for you to consider which I think works better.  Make the PROPOSITION (or Hypothesis, if you will) that the Bible is inerrant.

This sort of statement desperately calls for posting that wonderful cartoon where the scientist says "Here are the facts. What conclusions can we draw from them?" and the creationist says "Here are the conclusions. What facts can we find to support them?"

And here we have afdave saying "First, assume your conclusions. THEN, go out and find any *possible* support for them. If you can't find any, you just aren't trying, because the conclusions are assumed, and can't be wrong."

And RGD wants data? There we have it: doctrinal certainties optionally backed by selective misrepresentations. Optional because since the doctrine is certain, nothing else is particularly relevant anyway.

Date: 2006/05/02 04:36:39, Link
Author: Flint
Chuckle. Assume the bible is inerrant, then research this assumption at a Christian bookstore. Works for dave...

Date: 2006/05/02 04:36:39, Link
Author: Flint
Chuckle. Assume the bible is inerrant, then research this assumption at a Christian bookstore. Works for dave...

Date: 2006/05/02 07:27:26, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
BTW - does anyone know of a good online chart or tree showing current biblical understanding...

There are probably as many of these as there are religious sects - well over 10,000. Your error lies in the misuse of the word "understanding." Anyone who understood anything wouldn't bother with any such exercise.

Date: 2006/05/03 05:48:49, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
What would be truly surprising, and what would be evidence for the existence of God, would be if we inhabited a universe that could not sustain life.

And if we should someday visit lots of our universe and find no life anywhere, what should we conclude? That this is evidence for some god, who crafted life on earth despite the fact that this universe is otherwise very uncongenial to life?

But if we find life everywhere we go, should we then conclude that this same god created a universe where life can thrive, and therefore must also exist?

These anthropocentic arguments always come down to  "heads I win, tails you lose" circular conclusions: My god exists, therefore whatever we find proves it.

Date: 2006/05/03 15:35:25, Link
Author: Flint
I'm still waiting for an explanation of how forbidding the very behavior Ghost most wants to see, will result in MORE of that behavior.

Like the scale-free network, this could be presented cogently in a single post, IF there were any cogent rationale for it. But we spent over 20 pages asking this same question over and over, and watching Ghost change the topic as many times as he was asked.

Now we're supposed to expect something different? Somewhere I read that doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result was the hallmark of *something* - can anyone recall what it was?

Date: 2006/05/03 16:17:15, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I voted, but not for one of your choices. Instead, I voted that you return to the original topic that you dodged for 20 pages and finally ran away from. And I notice that you are STILL running, because you don't even list it. But I'll vote again.

How will forbidding the very behavior you most want to see, will result in MORE of that behavior?

I'm still curious.

Date: 2006/05/04 03:50:21, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
This is a common 'proof' for Ape to Human Evolution

And this is a common creationist false assumption. Humans fall spang in the center of the ape clade. Genetically, you just can't get more apish than Homo Sapiens.

Date: 2006/05/04 09:15:37, Link
Author: Flint
jeannot:

I know. I wasn't talking about the topology, exactly. I wish I could draw diagrams in this little box. But a cladistic outlier would be one that branched off early, without subsequent branchings. Hominids don't have a common ancestor with other apes long ago at the base of the diagram, suggesting a large genetic distance between them and other apes. Instead, hominids share common ancestors recently, and with chimps just less recently, etc. To the extent that the ape clade has been branching, humans are recently and closely related to many other apes,

So I guess that's what I was trying to say - if you took all of the genes of all the apes and did a factor analysis, humans would lie in the largest, "apiest" factor. And I wanted to contrast this with the creationist caricature of humans having ape ancestors, which we outgrew and left behind in all their hairy smelly distasteful glory.

Date: 2006/05/04 10:08:46, Link
Author: Flint
jeannot:

Quote
You could have said for instance that Homo and Pan share a more recent ancestor than Pan and Gorilla do.

Yes, I suppose so. But I was trying to emphasize that we are solidly and thoroughly apes ourselves, and phrasing it your way might be construed as saying we "graduated out of apehood" more recently. So my target was the tendency to distinguish between humans and apes, a distinction as impossible as distinguishing between starlings and birds.

Date: 2006/05/04 10:21:55, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
gay marriage -> gay families

Is there any evidence of this? What is a "gay family" anyway?

Quote
-> more sexually ambivalent children

My understanding is that this is not observed in practice. Sexual orientation seems to be much more inborn, not a particularly trainable attribute

Quote
+ more "forced" societal acceptance

By which I presume you mean, if we let gays marry, we may (or WILL?) "suffer" the requirement that they be granted legal equality in other ways? Two problems with this: First, I'm not convinced it will happen. Second, I'm not convinced it's undesirable even if it does happen.

Quote
+ lax culture

I have no idea what "lax culture" might refer to. My sincere best guess is, if YOU don't like it, it's "lax". If someone else doesn't mind it, it's because they're "liberal" and therefore ALSO "lax". Right?

Quote
-> promiscuity

And so, by a roundabout sequence of highly dubious and almost entirely irrational fears, we reach the foregone conclusion - that rewarding NON promiscuous behavior will lead to MORE promiscuity. All I can really say to all this is, if you hadn't known the "right" answer to begin with, you could never possibly have concocted ANY of the steps in your sequence. Not one of them.

Here's a suggestion: So long as you're going to assume what you set out to prove, why not skip all the rather absurd middlemen? Why not say "Here's what I know will happen, therefore it will happen because I know it." At least you'd look a lot MORE honest and a lot LESS self-serving.

Date: 2006/05/04 10:36:39, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
It's because they have to quote mine decades worth of literature to find things they can take out of context or find such lapses of vision.

It's also because older material is much better at highlighting what science "doesn't understand."

Date: 2006/05/04 11:32:29, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I believe that if male homosexuality were as socially-acceptable as heterosexuality, there would be no significant difference in promiscuity between male homosexuals and heterosexuals.

While this might be true, it's important to realize that the standard deviation of heterosexual male promiscuity is very very large. Some men can count the number of sex partners in their life on one hand, while others can only make estimates accurate to within a thousand or so.

I think we have good indication that homosexual males have a similar range of variation, implying that the desire for monagamy/multiple partners isn't linked to sexual orientation. And this in turn means that those at the far end of the curve can *always* be represented as "typical", and lots of anecdotal material can be presented in support.

I personally can't see any reason at all why granting the right to marry will change behaviors of large groups of people in any measurable way. Promiscuous homosexuals behave that way for the same reason promiscuous heterosexuals do: because they wish to, and because they can. I doubt that will ever change.

Date: 2006/05/04 14:07:52, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
A family with two openly homosexual parents. This isn't a hard concept to grasp...

But your link said that gay marriage would LEAD to "gay families", yet we already have openly gay couples raising children. What would change? Your link indicates a change, but you don't specify anything except that what exists now, would exist then. Lack of any change is also not that difficult to grasp.

Quote
But even the "pro" gay research shows that children of gay parents are more likely to experiment.

But why is this a problem? I wish you wouldn't take it for granted that we all share your prejudices so completely that we know what you're trying to say. So OK, we get more experimentation. I'm going to guess that you're trying to say that those children who ARE born with homosexual tendencies and experiment are more likely to discover this than those who do not experiment. And that those who fail to discover their tendencies are guaranteed to grow up to be "better people". Is this correct?

So I haven't forgotten your point. You have never MADE your point. Your point requires that you do two things: Show that given policies lead to given outcomes, and show that those outcomes are bad things. You've done little to help you on the first part, and NOTHING on the second.

I submit you haven't even tried to show that the results you fear (even if they DO happen, which I doubt) are bad results in any sense beyond your personal disapproval. As usual, you are assuming that we all share your prejudices in their full detailed virulence. Those of us who do NOT share them, continue to be baffled by your train of thought.

Kind of like saying "If we have better-paved roads, people will drive faster." And using this as an argument why improving our paving job is a terrible thing. And you keep saying "But people will drive faster. I have some studies showing this." Yeah, OK, so what? Is it bad to drive faster? Why?

And so: what is wrong with being, or acting, homosexual? Why should those people be denied equality under the law? Your bottom line seems to be, if we treat them as first-class citizens like YOU are treated, it's possible that a few more people might adopt the homosexual lifestyle, which is of course wrong and bad because you say so. But then again, a few more people might DROP that lifestyle as well. Either result is value-neutral as far as I'm concerned.

I'll appeal once again to the golden rule. I've raised this a great many times here, and you've totally ignored it an equal number of times. I thought even Christ was said to have recommended it. Why are you so afraid to apply it? Can you answer?

Date: 2006/05/04 16:17:27, Link
Author: Flint
dave does have a point. It's rather unusual for creationists to make straightforward fact-based statements, because they are so easy to refute directly, with the actual facts. Usually, those who provide the grist for creationists to parrot are much more careful to make statements correctly implied by false assumptions.

Wrong: You beat your wife.

Right: It was only yesterday that you denied not beating your wife, which is suspiciously recent.

Date: 2006/05/05 05:00:38, Link
Author: Flint
I must say the Dawkins quote surprises me. For anyone who has never heard of Dawkins, there won't be any leverage from name recognition anyway. For anyone who HAS heard of Dawkins, this quote is such a flagrantly dishonest misrepresentation of what Dawkins says that such people better not be trying to eat when they read it. Even the most brain-dead creationist can't help but recognize that this can't be even remotely accurate.

Discussing this stuff with someone who genuinely doesn't know any better might have some value. But why discuss with someone who knows better and lies anyway? This is the canonical argument with pigs.

Date: 2006/05/05 08:43:22, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I'm trying to understand where exactly the AIG author went wrong.

But the jokes have a barb in them, yes? The AIG author went wrong in his initial conviction that reality simply *could not* be true, since it contradicts his convictions. And so he went searching for some example of how reality got it wrong. Ignorance of the topic is a great assistance in this search. Taking it for granted that God approves of lies intended to trick the audience into correct beliefs also helps a lot.

Now, armed with righteous ignorance backed by righteous dishonesty, the AIG person can defeat every windmill reality presents to him, at least in his own mind. The chromosome error is an entirely typical example, not exceptional in any way.

Date: 2006/05/05 11:27:12, Link
Author: Flint
A more interesting question might be, do humans STOP aging when they die? If not, at what point might they be considered to stop? Time just flows along, but after a while it makes sense to say "this stuff just isn't a person anymore."

Date: 2006/05/05 15:05:47, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Science is applicable when the law is scientific.....
Otherwise it is completely arbitrary...

Sheesh! So we have a binomial distribution: things are either scientific or they are completely arbitrary. We have no other choices. Right?

Age requirements are empirical and heuristic. We step back, sight over our thumb, kind of get the gist of the issue, and do something workable. It's not *completely* arbitrary, it just has a lot of degrees of freedom.

When someone is deemed a "person" is determined using basically the same methods. We know by trial and error that (1) the starting date must be well defined (within a day), not guessed at; (2) That the legal and practical ramifications must be socially affordable. If infant mortality within the first month is over 50%, it's practical to start counting a month after birth, once the "crisis period" has passed; otherwise it's too expensive.

So while there is a good deal of flexibility in what is workable and practical, that doesn't mean "arbitrary" by any stretch. We know someone 10 years old can't operate a vehicle responsibly. We know that by the time someone is 30, they've long since been capable. So the age of "responsible enough" lies somewhere between 10 and 30. Not arbitrary, so we're talking about degrees of constraint.

Date: 2006/05/05 16:03:38, Link
Author: Flint
probably

Date: 2006/05/08 05:21:39, Link
Author: Flint
Maybe someone should patiently explain that human social structures have always been heirarchies. Heirarchies mean someone is at the top of the heap. Those at the top of the heap are always seeking to justify their position somehow. Before Darwin, kings and nobles and lords and such were divinely appointed. In other words, religious justifications were used.

After Darwin, a new possibility was raised: that those at the top of the social pyramid deserved to be there for natural reasons rather than religious reasons. There has never been ANY doubt by those at the top that their position is deserved. So these "natural" justifications have been deployed both by nations (as in Germany) and by scientists (searching for natural explanations for why the French are superior to the Germans or vice versa (depending on who's doing the study), or why whites are superior to blacks (again depending on who's doing the study). In brief, it fell out of fashion for those born into privilege to say God put them there, and into fashion to say they are "more evolved" and rose to the top from sheer innate superiority.

Neither the religious nor the natural explanation has anything to do with Darwin or evolution, of course. It's all about *staying on top*.

Date: 2006/05/08 07:31:44, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Do you or do you not find the very idea that humans are evolved apes offensive?

I find it misleading. Are you trying to imply that all the other apes are NOT evolved?

Dave lacks more than a rudimentary clue about biology, unfortunately. He also lacks any idea what a fact is, or what evidence means. We are seeing an example of what religion can do to a human brain if permitted to do so. Does anyone here think, if religion were entirely expunged from Dave's brain, there would be much left at all? Could he eat or walk?

Date: 2006/05/08 08:04:38, Link
Author: Flint
Again, a quick summary. Evolution did not happen, and does not happen. This is not negotiable. Now, I want some coherent explanation for the evidence we see on the ground. DO NOT try to renegotiate the non-negotiable, this only wastes everyone's time.

(Hint: Until you realize that goddidit, you won't have the right answer.)

Date: 2006/05/08 09:09:47, Link
Author: Flint
Well, going through the motions out of sheer boredom:

Quote
Why are we standing up in science classes and teaching kids that Ape to Human Evolution is a FACT?

It's a fact in the sense Gould described: attested to so thoroughly and without contradiction, by so overwhelming a body of consistent evidence, that it would be perverse to withhold tentative assent.

Quote
This is dishonest and potentially damaging to society for any number of debatable reasons.

Nope, it's not. If evidence is ignored or discarded, why bother teaching anything?

Quote
What we SHOULD be doing is telling them BOTH THEORIES--DESIGN and NO DESIGN

The problem here is, design is not a theory. It makes no predictions, has no hypotheses, has no track record, nobody is doing any research or even suggesting how research might be done. Claiming that design is a theory is a lie.

Quote
and clearly let them know they are UNPROVEN THEORIES and it is up to YOU and YOUR PARENTS to decide.

And of course, evidence doesn't matter. But in the world of science, evidence DOES matter. Theories in science are the best-fit explanations to the known evidence. No theory can EVER be proved, only the degree of evidential support can be reinforced. Evidence-based explanations aren't coin-flips or idle opinions. You are confusing science with religion.

Quote
My tax dollars are funding this education system just like yours are and I have a different opinion on something that is an unprovable fact in either direction.

Again, only if you regard evidence as irrelevant. But science is based on facts. Your tax dollars are going to show people still capable of thinking, how evidence leads to tentative conclusions. You may not LIKE the conclusions evidence leads to, and you may decide that evidence doesn't matter as a result. Too bad.

Quote
Why is my opinion shut out and vilified?

You will find little support for your defense of our children's right to remain totally ignorant, on a forum generally populated by people who have dedicated many years to dispelling their ignorance rather than wallowing in it. On the evidence, your opinions are simply incorrect.

Quote
Is this country supposed to be a representative democracy or is it not?  Last time I checked IT WAS.

But what we are discussing here is science, and science is NOT a democracy. Science is too closely tied to reality, where fact simply outweighs fiction and knowledge beats make-believe.

So the bottom line on this thread is that the evidence that humans are prime members of the great apes is so overwhelming that it's perverse to deny it. And your god-given right to remain stone ignorant of any relevant biology doesn't change this even a little bit.

Date: 2006/05/08 11:30:11, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I do not buy your notion that you are seeking the truth.  I don't but it for one second.

He already HAS the Truth. Now he's seeking the optimum rationalization for it. He's open-minded enough to recognize that the most transparently incorrect claims are suboptimal. At least some minimal obfuscation seems to be required.

Date: 2006/05/08 11:49:57, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
most of you are answering me precisely as I expected you to answer

Admittedly, we are evidence addicts, every one of us. Your ministry is desperately needed here.

Date: 2006/05/09 05:39:53, Link
Author: Flint
All of these people are victims, and all of them face the same problem: defending their beliefs against the ravages of reality. As Mark Twain said so eloquently, they all believe what they know ain't so, and they all need to find some way to neutralize their knowledge so as to defend their beliefs.

Some of these people are fairly intelligent, and manage their defenses in ingenious ways, through very creative misinterpretations and selective observation, along with an exasperating inability to stay on topic when doing so is uncomfortable.

Others are blessed with far less horsepower, and manage to get by on simple denial. If the evidence contradicts their faith, then the solution is simple: deny it. Clearly, it falls well within the human capacity to deny nearly anything.

So there seems to be a spectrum here, where at one end evidence is ignored, and at the other end evidence is finessed, redefined, and creatively interpreted. Anyone anywhere on this spectrum falls wherever their abilities require them to be to ensure that their faith cannot be doubted. Above all else, no doubt is permitted.

Date: 2006/05/09 06:08:23, Link
Author: Flint
Dawkins is good. Gould wrote hundreds of essays for Natural History, and collected many of them into a half dozen excellent books. Ernst Mayr wrote some highly accessible stuff.

None of this material will turn you into a biologist, but it CAN provide enough background so that after a few hundred hours of reading, you'll have enough of the background under control to at least have some slight grasp of what people are telling you. That way, when presented with valid biology, you can react more rationally than with reflexive and ignorant laughter and denial.

Of course, this material is pretty darn accurate, meaning your laugh-and-deny reflex will probably be triggered about twice per paragraph.

Date: 2006/05/09 07:41:02, Link
Author: Flint
Yes, of course. The religious 'way to knowledge' is by declaration. Just SAY it's true, and it becomes true. Those who disagree are unbelievers and go to the wrong church. ALL disagreement is essentially religious, because that's the only way to knowledge they know.

This has been pointed out quite endlessly. The reason evidence doesn't matter is, they can't really understand what evidence IS. So to a creationist, the "observation" that intelligence was involved in creating the kinds is raw data, pure observation. Just LOOK!

Date: 2006/05/09 08:41:22, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Then they'd just take the Paul Nelson Insanity Position: The evidence is all against me, and I don't care.

This happens because nearly all of these people knew that creationism was "true" before they knew anything about reality at all. Fundamental information can't displace this Truth; it can either be accommodated or it must be wrong. Since very very little of it can be accommodated, why bother to learn it? It's wrong anyway.

Date: 2006/05/11 03:00:49, Link
Author: Flint
Renier:

You have to understand that within the religious mindset, 'evidence' has a very different meaning from what you may expect. The bible is evidence. Claims made by congenial authorities are evidence. Sincere belief in the absence of, or even defiance of, scientific evidence is also evidence.

Basically, start with your convictions. Find something that can be represented as supporting them. *Anything* that can be so represented is a good candidate, including uninformed opinions, declarations of doctrine, making stuff up, whatever works. Since these support the target convictions, they become evidence.

Remember, Behe testified that "an intelligence is involved" is something he regards as raw data, a straight unambiguous observation. Evidence.

Date: 2006/05/11 04:19:58, Link
Author: Flint
Good point. How can one deny the reality of anything that answers your prayers, enters your heart, and speaks directly to your soul?

Date: 2006/05/11 08:41:38, Link
Author: Flint
In its general form, this discussion goes as follows:

afdave: The sky is blue, therefore goddidit.

everyone else: Yes, the sky is blue. How can you conclude from that that goddidit?

afdave: See, you are *admitting* the validity of the evidence. Now you seem to be saying the sky is NOT blue. So is it blue or not?

After a while, this is pretty thin entertainment.

Date: 2006/05/12 05:03:29, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
No, although I don't discount a massive crime increase, a continued erosion of liberties, and a further decline in core Western values. And yes, a hugely disproportionate number of those victims will be white. And apparently many people share my concerns - that's why survey after survey shows the American (and European) public wants the government to control immigration.

One almost doesn't know where to start. Could there possibly be any reason for defending and respecting a nation's borders besides fear of the terrible things people might do if they cross the borders without permission? What does nationality mean anyway?

And it's true that IF there is more crime and IF that crime is evenly distributed, then those with the most wealth and privilege will suffer more crime. Of course, both of these conditionals are false. In fact, there is less crime, and in fact, most crime is local - black on black, hispanic on hispanic, etc. But facts can't dent fears. I notice that Ghost expects crimes against whites to be disproportionate. Given the facts, this is unsupported. Not that support matters, I guess.

Ghost's surveys don't say WHY most people want to curb illegal immigration. Perhaps some of them genuinely do so out of fears contrary to observation. As for the "decline in core Western values", if there's any distinction between this code phrase and Ghost worrying about losing a privileged position, I haven't seen it.

(And as a supremely ironic footnote, there is some fairly compelling indication that the recent decline in crime rates is a direct downstream result of the legalization of abortion. It seems that legalized abortion took a major (and disproportionate) bite out of the birth rate among single, poor women in high-crime areas. Maybe Ghost thinks we should have maintained the high crime rate so as to defend "Western core values"?)

Date: 2006/05/12 09:12:01, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I'd really like a straight answer.

Uh, far out. Can I have a unicorn? Huh, can I?

Date: 2006/05/15 04:06:25, Link
Author: Flint
Maybe dave can provide a single example of anything anywhere such that "that's the way god chose to do it" is NOT a sufficient explanation. At least, that way we'll have some purchase, some distinction to examine in more detail. But I doubt there is any such example.

Date: 2006/05/15 04:11:38, Link
Author: Flint
The definition of bigotry being used here seems pretty consistent. A bigot is someone who doesn't share my prejudices.

Date: 2006/05/15 08:01:17, Link
Author: Flint
Unless sexual orientation depends on prenatal environmental factors like mother's diet, pH levels, loud noises on day 17 of pregnancy, and how worried the mother was about her self-esteem during full moons.

Date: 2006/05/15 10:18:21, Link
Author: Flint
Of course, it's true that the media do have certain biases. As a motorcyclist, I can assure you I notice that motorcycles (and German accents) are quick-and-dirty symbols that say "here is a bad person" saving lots of time-consuming exposition.

I think Ghost, though, is suffering from what I've seen called "red pick-up" syndrome. You see some of these around, not too many, until you buy one. Hypersensitized, you now suddenly notice that every third vehicle on the road seems to be a red pick-up.

I notice Ghost is now careful to speak of "inter-racial" crimes, because of course most crimes are X-on-X crimes, and black-on-black crimes probably account for over half the blue-collar sort of crime committed in the US. (I don't know where Ghost lives, but if he lives in the US, his spelling is seriously bad). The cops and the media both have a phrase: "misdemeanor murder", describing blacks killing blacks down in the slums. When whites are not involved in the crime, it's not newsworthy unless some other factor (famous athlete, for example) makes it so.

If the media were so relentlessly liberal, you'd think they'd notice crimes without whites involved. But, on second thought, while this is true it fails to support Ghost's thesis, so let's kind of ignore it...

Date: 2006/05/15 11:06:36, Link
Author: Flint
StephenWells:

Quote
Any evidence against common design does not exist, or isn't evidence.

Not necessarily. Sometimes (as in unique or bad designes), evidence against common design is evidence for a curse, or for the fall, or for the Designer having an unlimited imagination.

Date: 2006/05/15 15:30:34, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
It's almost as if the whole "explanation" consists of saying that it's easily explained.

But the problem is, *difficult* explanations require knowledge.

Date: 2006/05/17 05:01:39, Link
Author: Flint
OK, I must have missed something. I thought Dembski didn't actually leave Baylor until less than a year ago, and his position at the seminary was very recent. He's leaving already? Where is he going?

Date: 2006/05/17 10:13:08, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Regarding Wise's take on science education... don't they already teach that science is a process in schools? (What the #### does saying that science is a "finite product" mean anyway?)

I think I understand this. Most science in secondary schools is presented as a laundry list of facts to be memorized. The delivery is basically "here's what science says. Memorize and regurgitate." Even the theory of evolution is presented in this manner: Here is the theory of evolution. Learn it. I know my own education never presented science as a process. It was simply a daunting mountain of what science says is true.

My reading of Wise is, he's saying that we already know what's true, scripture specifies it beyond doubt. Scripture is a "finite product", an exposition of God's Word. Science is the process by which mortal men can relate the world around us to God's Word, to know that it IS the Truth. This process is obviously only getting started, and our best guesstimates using this process have a very long way to go before we start to narrow in on God's Truth, but at least knowing the answers, we can unambiguously indentify those areas where the scientific process has gone seriously astray.

Date: 2006/05/25 11:05:44, Link
Author: Flint
I'll vote with the child abuse folks, depending on certain classifications. I carve them up like this:

1) Belief as ratified by evidence. "I believe it's raining outside."
2) Belief without evidence when it's consistent with evidence supporting related matters. "I believe the flagellum evolved normally."
3) Belief without evidence, even though if the belief were correct, evidence would be overwhelming. "I believe in <insert god of choice>"
4) Belief in defiance of evidence. "I believe the earth is 6000 years old."

The fourth category clearly reflects parental abuse, or at the very least malignant neglect. The believer has a no-doubt-about-it damaged brain.

The third category is problematic. It seems human nature for children to have invisible playmates, to WANT horoscopes to be true, or UFOs or miracles. It's possible to outgrow the beliefs and expectations, but probably not the wants. Most of us sincerely want centuries of youthful vigor.

And I think most religious belief falls into this category. To sincerely accept unattested and unattestable things incapable of being refuted. But it's probably a fine line to slip over into the category of sincerely accepting solidly and unambiguously false things for reasons psychologists may someday understand.

Date: 2006/06/10 08:45:49, Link
Author: Flint
I also think these last replies are in the right direction. YEC infections are contracted very early in life, and abundant evidence shows that education does not cure it. Education in the most clearly contradictory areas (geology, biology, paleongology, etc.) is almost entirely avoided as too uncomfortable. Occasionally, exposure to these hostile disciplines is unavoidable, and tends to make YEC rationalizations and justifications more indirect and creative.

Yet, as would be expected given normal human variation, some YECs are going to be unusually technically-minded. For these people, engineering is ideal. It's technical, it's a field you can excel in without the intense skeptical approach to evidence required by science.

So I see a recruitment function operating here. Just as evolution allows one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, engineering allows one to be a technically competent YEC.

Date: 2006/06/15 02:55:15, Link
Author: Flint
The thread title is a misnomer. As far as I can tell, Magruder hasn't the first clue what evolution is. He doesn't destroy it, he's not in the right time zone.

But hey, it's a rare individual who both understands AND rejects evolution. Maybe Kurt Wise comprises that entire set. And Kurt Wise doesn't try to rationalize his rejection by misrepresenting or distorting evolution and then attacking the straw man. He upfront admits that evolution is far and away the best possible explanation for the currently available evidence - but evidence is not relevant.

Randy doesn't seem to do either of these. No misrepresentation, no reliance on faith. His technique is to take potshots and then act insulted. Maybe he just finished reading "Rejecting the Uncomfortable, for the Complete Idiot."

Date: 2006/06/15 05:31:15, Link
Author: Flint
Don't take this as an insult, but your grasp of what evolution IS sounds questionable. Whether you intend this or not, you come across as someone who "knows" evolution is wrong without feeling the need to understand what it is.

So you might wish to start with Ernst Mayr's "What Evolution Is", a book that's reasonably short, clear, and accessible to the layman.

Incidentally, what bothers people about Coulter is that her claims are largely incorrect, dishonest, misleading, and buried in an agenda so divorced from how science works as to be nearly impenetrable. As is true of many if not most of her persuasion, her arguments aren't based on the evidence; instead, evidence is fabricated or twisted as necessary to fit religious doctrine. That may satisfy Coulter's soul, but it's not science.

Date: 2006/06/15 06:19:15, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
So, have you ever read a book that you feel did a good job in challenging the theory of evolution?  Or are you convinced that there is no such scientist, no such book, and that it's just a bunch religious zealots trying to push creation into the classroom?  I'd be interested in seeing where YOU think the theory has been most capably challenged, and by whom?

Well, I'll take a crack at this, because it's chock full of questionable assumptions and can't be answered directly.

The fact of evolution (that life forms change over time for some reason) is not subject to rational debate. It happens. The *theory* of evolution, which proposes testable mechanisms by which such changes occur, is pretty well nailed down in large-scale terms, which is to be expected after tens of thousands of scientists have been adding mountains of corroborating evidence over 150 years or so. So when you speak of challenges to this or any other well-established scientific theory (and evolution is probably the most solid, best-attested theory science has ever produced), hopefully you aren't talking about challenges to the fact of evolution itself. Life forms DO change over time. The theory is only concerned with how and why this happens.

And as with any scientific theory, there are always items of debate at the forefront. With respect to evolutionary theory, there are quite a few. How important is genetic drift? Are mutations always random with respect to fitness? Does selection happen at levels above (species) or below (cells) the level of the organism? I'm not a biologist; I'm sure someone more knowledgeable can add to this list a great deal.

But note that such debates and targets of current research are not creationist-class broadsides against the fact of evolution. If that's what you're asking for, sorry, evolution is as established as gravity. There is no longer any informed debate about this. There is a great deal of debate at the margin, about the details of the mechanisms. Which is what you'd expect of such a mature theory.

Date: 2006/06/15 09:17:37, Link
Author: Flint
Randy:

After reading through this discussion, I have two points I think should be highlighted and addressed directly:

1) When you speak of evolution, are you talking about the fact or the theory of evolution? The fact of evolution consists of a very very large number of interrelated observations. These are the raw data. The theory of evolution (theories, more correctly. There are differences of opinion here) is a proposed explanation of the observations.

When you ask if evolution is falsifiable, it sounds a great deal like you are asking if it's possible that evolution itself did not happen. No, this is not possible. Evolution has always happened, and happens today. If you are asking if our explanations of the mechanisms by which evolution happens are falsifiable, I'd go further and say they are almost surely false in some way - incomplete, only partially correct, etc. But science ALWAYS assumes that EVERY theory can be improved.

2) Abiogenesis (the emergence of life from non-life) is NOT evolution, and really has little to do with evolution. Evolution as we're using it here is the study of how existing life forms change over time to become somewhat different life forms. How life got started in the first place is a distinctly different topic.

I think the conflation of these two different fields derives not from scientific confusion but rather from creationist doctrine. That doctrine says that abiogenesis and evolution are the *same thing* - that God poofed life into existence as we see it today (with minor unimportant variations), and thus abiogenesis and evolution are both buzzwords denoting the very same act of divine creation. But science sees them as very different.

Date: 2006/06/15 10:29:13, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
So no one with a degree in biology disputes the ToE?

This question is based on an assumption that makes a yes or no answer misleading. The ToE is, as has been said repeatedly, not a perfected product. At the margin, the edge of current research, there is a great deal of dispute. With the overall concepts (natural selection, genetic drift) there is no dispute.

Please understand that this is true of any and every scientific theory by definition, and always will be in order to be science in the first place. People learn a little. Based on that little, they learn a little more. Based on the little more, they learn more still. Scientific knowledge is cumulative.

So in broad terms, the ToE has been established beyond reasonable doubt. This is what happens when tens of thousands of scientists spend a century and a half studying something.

In detailed terms, the more we know, the more questions we think of to ask. Research (in the sense that those doing it do not know the answers) is happening on a great many fronts. Research involves disuptes: Is what we see, being caused more by THIS, or more by THAT. One researcher thinks THIS, one thinks THAT, they construct distinguishing experiments, and it's back to work.

Quote
So what is the response when someone who meets that same critiera disputes their view of the evidence?  Trying hard to put my finger on it, but it seems like the problem is that there is a bit of circular logic going on:

  - Sci #1 says A = B
  - Sci #2 says A <> B
  - Sci #1 says Sci #2 is a quack pseudoscientist


No, this is how *religion* works. In science, both #1 and #2 construct experiments to distinguish between A and B, in such a way that if the experiments fail, the two are the same and can't be distinguished. Then they test. The test determines who is correct. Both of them then agree (because the evidence always rules), and go on to the next thing.

Religion is where #1 and #2 call each other names, because there IS NO ARBITER. No equivalent of the evidence. No higher authority than their own opinions.

Date: 2006/06/16 05:28:47, Link
Author: Flint
OK, I read the entire thread and failed to find even one single substantive response from skeptic to any of the literally hundreds of informed objections to his claims. Not one response - he ignored or evaded every single factual claim. He provided a total of zero links, zero evidence, zero illustrations of logical thought, and zero understanding of anything he wrote. Also, as RGD said so many times, zero willingness to even THINK about anything he was told.

My theory is that skeptic has a blind spot surrounding his beliefs, which simply causes every substantive refutation of them to bounce off unnoticed. It's not that he *won't* answer any questions, it's that he simply does not see them. They don't exist. And this is invariably what creationism does to people.

Date: 2006/06/16 05:32:05, Link
Author: Flint
I knew about Fidelio, but not about Daffodils. I hope now that she is Officially Smart, RGD won't abandon us. I've grown almost addicted to her posts.

Date: 2006/06/16 09:58:34, Link
Author: Flint
I can't find any problem with seasons on a geocentric earth that can't be easily explained either by magic or by wishful thinking. You guys are all barking up the wrong tree. The chemistry Ghost is referring to is brain chemistry.

Date: 2006/06/16 14:25:13, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Sorry to have dropped out. I kind of gave up on the gay marriage when it became inarguable that:

1) You were confecting a vanishingly unlikely chain of subjective and unquantifiable circumstances leading to the future of your worst fears;

2) That even if such a future should come to pass for whatever reasons, it held no fears for me whatsoever (since a find myself unable to gin up matching prejudices); and

3) The future you feared didn't result from your imaginary sequence of events, but rather the sequence had been fabricated as a rationalization to justify fears I do not share.

I admit I didn't come in at the beginning of the geocentrism thread. All I can contribute out of context is that what "goes around" what is entirely a matter of frame of reference. From the frame of reference of an observer standing here, the universe *really does* revolve around us daily. Why should this frame be inferior to any other, except for ease of modeling?

Date: 2006/06/17 12:15:53, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Now, in the meantime: do you see why the existence of nested hierarchies kills the possibility of parallel evolution? You never responded to my post.

As I pointed out, the next substantive response will be the first. All indications are that, as we've all grown to know and love, he simply CAN NOT SEE what doesn't fit his convictions. All I see is endless psychoanalysis of the "hostility" that is inherent in the presentation of actual evidence. Why can't we closed-minded hotheads get it through our skulls that *evidence doesn't matter*, that saying "I don't feel that's true" is a valid and sufficient refutation of supported claims.

Date: 2006/06/18 10:00:46, Link
Author: Flint
At one time, I enjoyed watching boxing matches. Often ehough, it was a home-town boy against someone far superior from elsewhere. The superior fighter would humiliate and finally knock out the local boy.

At which point, the referee would stop the fight, raise the unconscious local boy's arm in the air and declare him the winner! And the local fans LOVED it. They were ecstatic.

Coulter's target audience is exactly the same. Coulter may have her facts wrong (and incomplete), her logic wrong, her language vicious, her arguments without exception dishonest and unfair, her footnotes may fail to support the argument being made where they were cited, and so on ad nauseum.

But she is lying for Jesus, and that makes everything better than OK, it makes it holy. She's almost surely well aware that creationists continue to get full mileage out of arguments so thoroughly discredited even AiG cringes.

And so as the boxing matches demonstrate, it doesn't matter how flagrantly you cheat so long as the right guy wins. I often suspect the the more flagrant the cheating, the more popular the decision. Shows what matters.

Date: 2006/06/19 10:01:07, Link
Author: Flint
Pretty natural for all of us to assume the inherent superiority of whatever in-group we identify with. Northern Europeans of Darwin's time never thought to ask *whether* those who looked different were inferior, they only sought to explain why.

Meanwhile, engineers (such as, ahem, myself) are superior to everyone else for good solid reasons. Objective critical analysis tells us so.

Date: 2006/06/28 07:48:36, Link
Author: Flint
The argument that any valid and useful knowledge flows out of the Christian Bible necessarily rests on such a liberal and freewheeling scope of interpretation as to make Nostradamus' predictions explicit by comparison. But unfortunately, this begs an important question: if the words of the Bible can be interpreted post facto to mean anything we want, why do we even need the Bible in the first place? We could do the same thing with the phone book.

Date: 2006/06/29 04:37:34, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Here's an interesting question: can the various ways of knowing be meaningfully detached from each other?

Yes. Next question.

Date: 2006/06/29 04:44:28, Link
Author: Flint
??? The entire body of supporting evidence seems to be that someone put the snake into a bucket, checked back later, and the snake looked white. No subsequent tests performed, at least none are mentioned. No description of the bucket color, the lighting or other observation circumstances, the number of people making the observaton, etc. You'd think even for a newspaper article, someone would have done at least a *little* more checking. The result is an awful lot of conclusion based on a mighty flimsy allegation.

On the other hand, it would seem to be a LOT easier to verify or falsify this claim than has been the case with the alleged ivory billed woodpecker.

Date: 2006/07/05 05:06:21, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I read through this, and something puzzles me. Are you arguing here that *correct* ideas, which are powerful enough to providing guiding and organizing principles for entire fields of science, should nonetheless be withheld from the public, which should be kept in ignorance because such ideas might undermine their moral fabric?

As I read it, your superficial "ignorance is bliss" argument isn't so straightforward, because in fact you've been working backward:
1) Has society been going downhill recently? Sure has.
2) Is evolutionary theory bunk? Must be, God said so.
3) Has evolutionary theory been accepted by Important People anyway, for the trivial reason that it explains so much and passes so many tests? Apparently so.
4) Aha, it follows that acceptance of an explanation for what we see around us that God (your interpretation) rejects, must be the cause of the moral degeneration you see (but others don't). What makes things even more disturbing is that this evil explanation meets so very clearly every single last rigorous requirement for being true.
5) Now all we need to do is document how actual comprehension of this explanation is causing social collapse, among those so immoral as to be well-educated. We document this by pointing to immoral movies. Where in these movies do we find any clear relationship between understanding biology and doing stuff you don't like? Simple, we *assume* it, because it must be true, because why else would these people be so immoral?

Now, to you the causal chain may be irrefutable, but to those not pre-equipped with this knowledge, the relationship you allege simply isn't there. At all. Ah well, faith is believing what you know ain't so.

Date: 2006/07/05 05:17:26, Link
Author: Flint
True Christians cannot be free or have genuine liberty until all those who do everything Christians don't want *other people* to do are either converted, dead, or jailed. It's still all right to actually DO these things, of course, provided a) you don't get caught, and b) you pound your bible, say 'Jeezus' a lot, and make it clear that you don't tolerate it when others do it.

It is the punishment of the intolerant to suffer because others are free.

Date: 2006/07/05 07:54:39, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I'm just saying that there might be a link, and demonstrating the harmlessness of Darwinism itself does not prove that Darwinism has no harmful impact on society. Nevertheless, the burden of proof rests with me, and I will be the first to admit it. By the way, I suspect that Darwinism is a deadly philosophy on its own terms...

I just get more confused by this. I'm sorry I didn't come in at the beginning. I'm baffled by what you might intend by the "philosophy" of "Darwinism". What I'm talking about here is very specific: the biological theory that differential survival rates filter heritable traits, selecting thereby those traits possessed by the most effective replicators. This is most emphatically NOT a "philosophy", this is a proposed, well-supported explanation for a very large body of observations.

My question was, how is an understanding of this natural feedback process detrimental to society? You dodged this question, confusing it with censorship. Maybe I just didn't understand. If people understand how survival filters out those characteristics that assist in survival, how does this understanding, directly or indirectly, cause social harm. You seem to be claiming that it does, but making no case for this claim that I can find.

And how is this understanding "deadly"? To whom? By what mechanism? Are there any other well-supported scientific explanations of the evidence that you would consider deadly? I suppose you might make a case that our knowledge of evolution, like our knowledge of physics, permits us to construct weapons we couldn't begin to build without the underlying theories. Is this what you mean?

So once again, it sounds to me that in your dictionary, "darwinism" is pretty synonymous with anti-God, and it's a "philosophy" because, well, I give up.

Date: 2006/07/05 08:44:33, Link
Author: Flint
Clearly, I've also missed something important here.

Which sounds like something one is more likely to hear:

(1) I'm justified in doing something antisocial because I have been called by God to do it/the Bible says this is proper; or

(2) I'm justified because normal biological variation implies slightly different rates of reproduction in subsequent generations.

Ghost has only heard the second? People actually USE this to justify antisocial behavior? Even the battle over the propriety of slavery involved Christians on both sides waving their Bibles and citing congenial verses.

I have never in my life heard anyone justify any "belief" on the grounds of differential reproductive success over long periods of time. I defy Ghost to back up his claim with even a single instance of this. Weird, man.

Date: 2006/07/05 08:55:22, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
No. He has wild-ass guesses, ad hoc explanations, special pleading, reference to dubious biblical sources. Has he given anyone here the slightest reason to credit his global flood hypothesis? No. Has he given anyone here the slightest reason to credit his more general Creator God Hypothesis? No.

When reality battles faith, reality has no chance. Not a prayer!

Date: 2006/07/05 09:21:41, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Your "theory" needs so many miracles and unexplained wonders to work...

Close your eyes. Spin around a few times. Point in any direction. You will be pointing at something that refutes the genesis flood. Probably in more than one way. What you're pointing at is called evidence. It cannot be permitted.

Date: 2006/07/05 10:22:17, Link
Author: Flint
Here we read:

Quote
So at what point do a person's convictions become a health issue? In my opinion, the answer is this: A belief becomes cognitively unhealthy when the believer's free will and normal critical processes have been damaged by the belief system's dialectic. I argue that fundamentalist religions, insofar as they cripple a believer's ability to have free will, exhibit rational choice and appropriately assess the nature of the physical environment, have already passed this threshold.

Moreover, the effect of fundamentalism on society is as detrimental as the effect of fundamentalism on believers. Fundamentalists are the ones who fly planes into skyscrapers and murder doctors that perform abortions. They are the ones who deny the existence of proven physical phenomena while rabidly insisting on the existence of clearly unsubstantiated marvels.

They are also incapable of recognizing that they have a problem, and are often amongst the most intolerant people on this planet, commonly referring to non-believers as pagans, heathens, or infidels.

The differentiating factor must be this: A belief system is a mental disorder when it causes believers to deny the observations of empirical methodologies. With fundamentalists, this involves denying the nature of the physical world as it is being presented in favour of archaic and unyielding irrational orthodoxies; their brains have been infected and debilitated with unsubstantiated nonsense.


On the whole, a good sensible article. This guy says the cure is education. Preferably before the victims become "incapable of recognizing that they have a problem."

Date: 2006/07/05 11:30:36, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

You've lost me. Focus on differential reproductive success due to biological variation. HOW does recognition of this fact cause any sort of social decay?

Hey, I have no problem with your opinions about the quality (and inherent inferiority, of course) of societies you don't live in. I simply don't see how the understanding of differential reproductive success is causing these problems. You said it was. Please explain.

Date: 2006/07/05 11:36:14, Link
Author: Flint
MidnightVoice:

You must be gay. Otherwise you'd know. Remember that a thread or two back, it was gay marriage that was causing the collapse of society, not an understanding of reproductive success. I'm guessing that only gays understand reproductive success. What else could it be?

Date: 2006/07/05 12:05:56, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Let's assume that heliocentrism/evolution/relativity/pick yer theory is correct. Has American society been harmed?

But this was YOUR thesis, wasn't it? Or was it not the correctness of the theory of evolution that's causing social collapse, but rather that some people actually understand the theory? You weren't clear.

Quote
Once you have enough time and energy invested in a worldview, you have to be dragged from it kicking and screaming. Evos are just as emotional as creos

And, unsurprisingly, the relevance of evidence once again has escaped you. What this article is talking about isn't isolated conviction as to the truth of anything. He's very explicitly talking about conviction in defiance of enormous quantities of evidence to the contrary. He thinks that makes a difference. So do I. You don't even seem to recognize that it relates.

Quote
but let's compare the tens of thousands of third-trimester fetuses murdered each year

You have stumbled over your terminology. Murder is deliberately taking the life of a person. A 'person' is a legal construct. By law, fetuses are not people. You have made a religion-induced category error. Try again.

Quote
And yet in spite of this, America is a rich, powerful trendsetter that laps the field in most categories. Boo hoo

Well, let's see. America has a great many scientists, who are largely responsible for the "best in the entire world" quality of life. Even granting this rather dubious chauvinism, we might usefully ask what percentage of these scientists share the religious convictions you are so devoutely pimping for. After all, your defense against the accusation of religious wingnut-ism is that NON-wingnuts, who actually accept EVIDENCE (look it up), accomplish wonderful things. Now, one might hope that sooner or later, you might actually draw a correlation between scientific accomplishment and religious extremism, and notice that the two are for some strange reason nearly mutually exclusive.

And if this should ever occur to you, your sense of integrity might be sore distraught that you constructed special pleading so clearly dishonest.

Date: 2006/07/05 13:05:19, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

I think I'm starting to see where you're coming from now. When you speak about the "philosophy of Darwinism" this really has nothing whatsoever to do with Darwin's actual explanation of the evidence. Nor does it really have anything to do with biology at all. It's a phrase you coined to form free-associations in your mind with loss of belief in your particular god, which in turn is causing social degeneration from your perspective. Much as I might coin the phrase "the philosophy of baseballism" to symbolize what I might consider a trend toward medical problems resulting from too much fast food. You would be expected to understand that's what I meant, knowing (as you would) that I belong to a cult that hates baseball and blames it on anything and everything I ALSO hate.

Quote
The struggle for survival needn't involve cruelty, but the most conspicuous examples often do, and people notice that the meek often end up in the bellies of their predators.

I'm going to presume here that you understand that this has little to do with how evolution works. Most of the "superior" variations (always with respect to differential reproductive success) have more to do with ensuring a food supply than anything else. But we understand, do we not, that the people you're referring to really have little clue what evolution IS; they are justifying antisocial behaviors based on common misunderstandings.

But what you carefully avoid mentioning is that the cure for such misunderstandings is GOOD education, not anti-science propaganda. And of course I also trust we both understand that a quality education will do nothing to prevent antisocial behaviors; at best we can replace the current set of excuses and rationalizations.

Quote
People need standards, whether they're intellectual, physical, or moral. Without a higher guide, logic can turn on itself, and then the rationalisations begin.

Amazingly enough, I agree with you here. Standards, customs, protocols, traditions, routine practices, these things are very important for our basic sanity. But you're barking up the wrong tree if you think scientific explanations of observations undermine standards in any way. I personally believe that the Golden Rule is a truly excellent rule of thumb. I need not reject tested explanations of biological change over time to recognize this, or to follow that rule as well as I can.

Now, I may be wrong but I think you are saying that your particular magic book, by virtue of its wide distribution and "installed base" of believers, is the best guide available, for better or worse. Yeah, maybe it has a lot of contradictions, or a lot of recipes we no longer honor, a lot of tall tales to illustrate moral principles that some damfools take literally.

The Bible-program is riddled with bugs, but for some people it works. Personally, I think these people could lose the godball nonsense and yet lose none of their morality. And those who use the Bible as an excuse for antisocial behavior would use anything you could substitute, same as those who abuse misunderstandings about biology. You do NOT need to be irrational to have moral standards.

Date: 2006/07/05 13:18:06, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
Does Christianity, or fundamentalist religion in general, often encourage a blinkered viewpoint? Certainly we can be awfully pig-headed and impervious to evidence that clashes with our belief. But for the author's argument to have any force, bad things must follow. So what are the bad things?

I think this is a legitimate question. Did you read the entire editorial I linked to? Clearly, he's not talking about people whose religious faith does NOT require them to reject inconvenient evidence and/or adopt bigoted postures toward personal differences. He's talking about those who *substitute* fundamentalism for reason and knowledge, and then try to spread ignorance.

But I'm in the same position you are here, trying to identify the harm done. Is Kurt Wise harmful? No, probably not. I work with a couple of excellent, highly skilled engineers who are YECs. Fortunately, their delusions do not overlap the requirements of their profession. In general, my observation has been that creationists have a roped-off blind spot. They are entirely rational, even rigorously logical, outside the ropes. It's always startling to me when that line is crossed, and their eyes glaze over. Almost like a post-hypotic command - say the keyword, and their mind disengages entirely.

So actual harm is difficult to demonstrate. I could only point out that the scientific advances are rarely if ever made by creationists, especially in biology. As a society, we advance despite, not because of, brainwashed ignorance. We can (and do) absorb large numbers of bigots. But as far as I'm concerned, this doesn't mean we should *encourage* bigotry. I suggest we'd be a LOT better off with more biologists and fewer bigots.

Date: 2006/07/06 02:55:34, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
All I know is:

1) A third of America shares a great deal of my worldview; yet

2) Science is still with us.

This argument always brings me up short. To draw an exact parallel not pre-poisoned by religious blinkers, imagine someone arging for more polio on the grounds that the US dominates the Olympic games, trying to imply that polio can't be harmful and might be beneficial. This only works when arguments that could be made straight ahead are instead made by implication and misdirection. ALL of Ghosts arguments are made this way.

I can only repeat that those producing the scientific advances and those who share this worldview are entirely different populations, without any meaningful overlap at all. The reason for this mutual exclusivity can be traced beyond mere statistical observation to actual cause and effect. Those who reject evidence produce no science. Advances are made by those who escaped the trap, not those who fell victim.

Date: 2006/07/06 10:20:51, Link
Author: Flint
So a card-carrying member of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative and grimly Christian think tank, examines the greatest works (in his opinion) produced by Christians in Christendom (falsely advertised as the best of all humanity everywhere), and marvels that, why, they're all produced by (ghasp!;) Christians. God must be real.

And the Chinese must be giggling.

Date: 2006/07/08 13:05:35, Link
Author: Flint
From what I've read that seems relevant, as well as from some personal experience and from the (stated, anyhway) educational qualifications of creationists on many boards, I've come to the conclusion that education has little impact on creationism. A poor education tends to leave its victims with two basic shortcomings: lack of as broad an exposure to human knowledge as they may have had, and lack of depth of understanding of what they are exposed to.

As an example, they can write well enough to get their points across, but their writing tends to be full of grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, and tends to lack imagination or coherent paragraph structure. It relies on a narrow vocabulary.

This same sort of passable-but-limited mental scope is visible across the board. Some of these people are very intelligent, though, and capable of remarkable insight and depth in fields that interest them, even if their formal education may have merely glanced at them in passing.

Creationism, now, is something entirely different. It is emphatically not a matter of lack of exposure or depth, or something presented in a boring or didactic manner likely to be tuned out. By all indications, creationists have done considerable homework, paid close attention to the supporting arguments, and are characterized by strong convictions. They are suffused with a truly admirable determination to defend their convictions against the slings and arrows of uncongenial reality.

In this regard, I think we all have something to learn from creationists. If we could only understand just what it was about the presentation of the material that provoked such lifelong zealotry, we could revolutionize education as currently practiced. The problem here isn't poor education at all. The problem is rather outstandingly capable education harnessed to misguided notions.

Date: 2006/07/09 09:18:06, Link
Author: Flint
There's a category error happening here. Yes, religious fundamentalism correlates with lower economic class, lower levels of education, etc. But we can't conclude that education would have caused a religiious conversion, or whether religious convictions cause people to avoid both education and the sorts of tasks that require education, as too uncomfortable for their faith to tolerate day to day.

Nor does this have anything to do with the overall quality of education, which at least in my experience varies widely. In the US, there are schools producing outstanding people in all fields, and other schools whose primary function is to provide as safe a babysitting service as very little money can buy. This latter category does NOT reflect "the nation as a whole", despite Lenny's complaint. Maybe Lenny attended such a school when he studied statistical distributions?

He's right that in early childhood, critical analysis is simply not possible; this requires a fairly substantial number of years absorbing both the knowledge and the processes necessary to perform one. It is during precisely these years that fundamentalism acts to circumvent subsequent motivation along these lines.

And so we learn, not very surprisingly, that college degrees in biology cause only 25% of those who went in as creationists, to question their convictions.

So if education really influences creationism, it's the sort of education one receives in the first half dozen years of life. In terms of religious faith, that's when the die gets cast.

Date: 2006/07/13 11:13:53, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Really?  I'm just a common or garden agnostic, and cannot quite see where he gets this implication.

I think he has made a category error here. Kind of like saying that in recognizing only physical vehicles but not travel, materialism has "failed to convince" that material things are all that exist. After all, travel isn't a material thing anymore than the mind is. Travel is what vehicles do, and the mind is what the brain does.

But of course materialism recognizes that processes exist. The mind is a process; it's not a magical thing like a soul. The error lies in the claim that the mind somehow exists independent of the body. IF brainless people could have minds, THEN materialism would have to consider such minds illusory.

Date: 2006/07/17 10:58:16, Link
Author: Flint
The usual term is "natural history".

Date: 2006/07/17 11:01:01, Link
Author: Flint
Here's a car that runs on water. No doubt about it.

Date: 2006/07/18 03:34:43, Link
Author: Flint
If these were fresh claims, we could hope that Hovind would be sentenced to medical help for mental incompetence, until such time as he recovered his sanity. But sadly, these are all tired claims raised many times before. So Hovind isn't risking permanent nuthouse assignment, but only a few counts of contempt. What's interesting is that his attorney is also risking a contempt charge. But given what Hovind (er, that is, God) is able to pay in legal fees, the attorney probably doesn't much care...

Date: 2006/07/20 03:24:34, Link
Author: Flint
Ichthyic:

Quote
one wonders just how many times these idiots have to lose in court before they start getting the slightest clue.

Well, as your link says, despite losing the bond election and losing every court case, they have already postponed any actual research by a year and a half, and the appeals process promises to double this delay. At three years per lawsuit-plus-appeals, times the number of different suits the fundies can dream up, this might be quite a while. Especially since as time goes by, more opportunities to find litigable issues are sure to arise.

So I think they have a very good clue. Justice postponed indefinitely is justice denied.

Date: 2006/07/21 15:09:06, Link
Author: Flint
I'm not sure if this is the proper place to bitch, but I am unable to comment to Ed Brayton's blog. I enter my name, my email address, and a comment. I poke the POST button, and it says the comment is rejected because my name and email address are missing (which they are not). The help button says to use the zap cookies link for some reason. I click on that link, and get a page-not-found error. Great.

But I see that some people are able to leave comments. How are they doing this? I'd complain to Ed, but I can't comment on his forum! I'd complain on the offending PT thread, but it doesn't allow comments! Perhaps Ed is worried about critical comments?

Date: 2006/07/23 05:50:38, Link
Author: Flint
I've also seen it called "the nefarious OBOB" which stands for 'off by one bug'. Very very common.

Date: 2006/07/29 18:49:41, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
On the other hand, evolutionary theory and evolutionists make it a point to emphasize that scientific evidence exists that leads them to believe there is no God and they do this from a position of scientific authority.

I think this particular formulation is visible only through religion-tinted glasses. SCIENCE (evolution is only seen as the most immediately threatening to religious doctrine) allows people to understand their universe without ringing in gods and magics. But to the religious mindset, the claim that no gods are *required* is indistinguishable from the claim that no gods *exist*.

So scientific evidence doesn't lead anyone to believe there is no god, but instead scientific evidence does NOT lead anyone to believe there are ANY gods. I think this distinction is generally more subtle than the True Believer can parse. How can one be indifferent to the hypothetical existence of their personal god? It's not possible; failure to worship that god MEANS denying its existence.

Quote
Dawkins may not haved formally "proven" that God doesn't exist but he believes that science has proven it and he makes no bones about sharing that belief constantly.

No, he does not. He points out that no scientific explanation of anything every has nor ever will involve or require anything supernatural. And that despite omitting any and all gods, science WORKS. The belief Dawkins shares is that one need not Believe to understand. One can do both, of course. But it's not required.

Quote
Science can make NO statement as to the existence or non-existence of the divine.

True. The challenge lies in recognizing that in making no statement, science is not making a negative statement.

Quote
by implying that science has answered that question the actual nature of science has been distorted and then an unnecessary conflict between science has been set up (or perpetuated depending upon your historical perspective).

I agree here also, with the provision that it is not science that has set up this conflict, it is religion. Science digs up the evidence and attempts to explain it. The evidence contains no gods. Offended, religion protests that science is *denying* the gods. Science is not distorted itself in any way. But the religious description of science is seriously awry.

Maybe we should be more careful to distinguish between science (a method) and scientists (humans each with their irrational convictions and idiosyncrasies).

Date: 2006/07/30 13:19:27, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Freedom and multiculturalism cannot coexist.

Stating this as an article of faith, complete with italics, is guaranteed to lead to complete misunderstanding and mutual disgust. Putting it this way also implies that Ghost has read this somewhere he respects (it's pretty commonly heard in racist venues) and repeats it verbatim, without wondering what it might mean.

So herewith, a brief yet boring lesson in abstract politics. Individual members of socially cohesive groups can't feasibly agree on everything; vested interests are highly individual and very important. Maybe on really obvious things and with very small groups, you can get unanimity. But for any usefully diverse society (and division of labor is necessary), this won't happen. Division of labor means division of interests.

So we need to back up one step and agree to accept the results of processes set up to resolve conflicts. NOT agree on the results, but agree that the proper procedures were followed in good faith to reach whatever results ensued.

At this level of abstraction, it soon becomes clear that the agreement to abide by the outcome of the processes isn't going to happen unless all the members of the social group agree that the the process is right and appropriate. In other words, that all aspects of that process meet the values of 'good' and 'right' common to the members of the society.

This includes everything from the determination of the people administering the process, to the rules of evidence, to the rules of presentation, to the logic of the law, to the processes by which the laws being used are made in the first place are right and proper. In other words, the process *won't work* unless all parties to every dispute feel that the decision was 'fair and square' - even if it goes against them.

So when a society becomes too heterogeneous and pluralistic, these words evaluate in practice to "the parties to the dispute don't accept the procedures for resolving it." This can happen when cultural notions of 'right and wrong' or of 'fair and square' are too different to be reconciled.

When cultures become too different, these meta-agreements can't be made effectively. We might impose (for example) the formalities of a democratic election, but people wielding real power don't relinquish it to formalities. If those people can't rig the election, they VOID the election. Saying "we'll abide by the results only if we win" does not mean the rules are accepted.

And this means that the "multicultures" Ghost is talking about need to be co-opted into the system. They must feel that they have a voice, that they can make a difference, that they have some chance of winning some of the time. Otherwise, they will ignore, circumvent, or rebel against the system. Freedom as we understand it occurs within a cultural context. In a canonical anarchy, NOBODY is free.

I agree with Ghost that it is NOT the case that "radically different cultures can coexist peacefully with a little "tolerance" from the practitioners of the formerly dominant culture." He's quite right that this doesn't work. The cultures MUST have enough in common to reach the agreement to agree in principle, to agree to abide by the results of a mutually agreeable process (and some process must be mutually agreeable). Like agreeing to abide by a coin flip, or agreeing that whoever gets to cut the pie, the other one gets first choice of slices.

Where I disagree with Ghost is in the presumption that agreement at this level cannot be reached, despite any amount of effort, under any circumstances. Usually, agreement can be reached short of war or genocide if the "formerly dominant" group is willing to give and take, and the formerly weaker group is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for a while.

It's kind of like a marriage. People from very different backgrounds can make it work if both act in good faith and make a sincere effort. I doubt if Ghost is really trying to argue that marriage as an institution is hopeless because there will ALWAYS be a fatal power imbalance.

Date: 2006/07/30 16:14:44, Link
Author: Flint
I don't read Dawkins as having any complaint about belief in gods that doesn't require denying reality or stifling education or research. He regards such gods as feckless irrelevancies, of course, but he doesn't object. What irks Dawkins is when belief in gods impedes either science or knowledge.

I think we can take it as unambiguous that Dawkins believes no gods exist for the operational reason that it's always been the most effective working assumption that things unattested by any known evidence don't exist until such evidence surfaces. A logical default.

Perhaps there is a difference too subtle for skeptic to draw, between stating as a matter of scientific fact that there are no gods, and stating that as a matter of tentative presumption based on the nonexistence of any evidence, there are no gods.

Date: 2006/07/31 02:50:48, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
And as far as that subtle distinction your guys are talking about, I just see that as you guys giving him and that position the benefit of the doubt in order to soften the antagonistic implications of this position.  Again, my opinion.

Antagonistic to whom? Not to science, which can't speak about the supernatural. Not to the *performance* of science - not even creationists are faulting Dawkins' ability to perform science.

Instead, what we have are people who are most emphatically antagonistic toward education, facts, and research. You don't seem to find these people antagonistic at all. And we have someone who thinks religion is useless at best and dangerous at worst. And THIS person, you find "antagonistic".

Seems pretty clear that a position that rejects the utility of religion antagonizes YOU, whereas a position that rejects facts and thought does not. Good open-minded skepticism there, you bet.

Date: 2006/07/31 04:38:11, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
I believe he is and I think that is a distortion.

How about half an agreement? IF Dawkins were saying science has (or even CAN) disproved any gods, it would be a distortion of science. But Dawkins is saying religion is stupid, useless and often dangerous. And that's something quite different.

Quote
They look for support in scientific data.  Thats fine although a little confusing to me because it kinda defeats the point on relying on faith but no matter.

Obviously it matters to them. Science has been effective across the board, astoundingly and consistently so. People have come to respect and admire science for this track record, even if they have no clue what the scientific method is. Broad public respect and admiration is all religion can aspire to, and this makes science a territorial threat. Not being able to show that science doesn't work, they instead attempt to show that science ratifies their faith. Since it does not, science must be misrepresented. Pretty simple, really.

Quote
As I've said, I hold Dawkins to a higher standard because he should know better.  No amout of science can answer this question and it shouldn't be implied that it can.

You're right about going in circles. Dawkins agrees with you entirely - science is necessarily mute about the supernatural (whatever that is). Dawkins is saying gods are silly, useless, unevidenced, and often intellectually crippling. You may contest this if you wish - after all, this position IS a matter of evidence, not faith.

Date: 2006/07/31 11:40:12, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

What if I don't like your choices? In snipping out everything else I wrote, I really wish you had read it and thought about it. Had you done so, you'd realize that your choices ALL assume your own biases.

Should there be any limit on immigration altogether? If so, why or why not? You seem to take for granted that there should be, but don't explain why.

Should immigration, if limited, be limited on the basis of nationality? Why not on the basis of religion, or education, or musical talent? How about on ability to play soccer? Maybe limit it to those who score above a given level on the Wechsler?

I think I agreed with your basic point about insurmountable cultural differences and the uncompromisable difference in values they imply. But you go right ahead and assume that you can equate values with national origin - even knowing how very differently people see things within any given country. Even in Iraq, there are people willing to give democratic processes a good-faith effort. Should they be kept out of the US?

My preferred limitations on immigration are: You can join the club ONLY if you agree to play by the rules. Break them, you're outta here. Color, language, religion, nationality irrelevant. Join our meta-agreements or stay home.

Date: 2006/07/31 13:10:45, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

Quote
Never gonna happen, Bill. At least, not until we stop running foreign occupations that cost five billion a month.

After which, they'll find something else to spend it on. Government spending is like a ratchet. It only goes in one direction.

Quote
Not only that, but Social Security is the only government program that actually runs a surplus. And it would continue to run a surplus if the trust fund weren't regularly raided to fight wars of choice.

This is not really a good argument. What goverment has done is to take all income, separate out a pile they call 'social security' which happens (because the bookkeepers MADE this happen) to be larger than required for social security. Then they take the leftover and stick it back into the main pile. Then they say social security has a 'surplus'. But that's smoke and mirrors. It's an accounting trick that lets them say BOTH that they have a program running a surplus, and that the overall budget deficit is smaller than it actually is (because they *don't count* what they take back from the social security pile as part of the deficit! )

Let's say you want a $20,000 car but your wife doesn't want you to spend the money. So you 'set aside' $50,000 (that you don't have) into a car fund, "discover" that you have a $30,000 surplus (the car is only $20K), "borrow' that surplus right back into your budget, spend $20,000 of it on the car you wanted, and hey, you have $10,000 LEFT OVER! You turned a profit!

Quote
Interesting that when it comes to cutting expenditures, it's never the programs that cost the most money, e.g., DoD programs. It's always the programs that benefit the politically disenfranchised, e.g. the poor. Any guesses as to why that is?

Yes, it's because the social programs cost more than double what discretionary spending comes to, and DoD is only a small part of discretionary spending (except for Bush's extra war fund, but that's "off-budget", see). Social security, welfare, medicare, and medicaid together come to 54% of total budget. Interest on the debt is another 9%. Total military comes to about 19%.

Hot flash. Here are more recent numbers.

Quote
you might reflect on the fact that the U.S. is the most lightly taxed developed nation on the planet. We're right above Mexico on the list.

Which ought to make you stop and think, I hope. What you're talking about is tax *assessments*, and not tax *payments*. Evading taxes isn't nearly the industry in the US that it is in Mexico (or much of Europe).

Ghost:

I believe in limiting immigration. My preference is to set these limits retail rather than wholesale. That is, on an individual basis. Imagine if you were denied immigration to (pick a country. Say, Ireland) because you come from a nation that has *too many atheists*, so they don't want "your kind" polluting their country. I'm sure you'd be delighted with such a fair, just and reasonable denial, right?

But I recognize that I'm imposing my own value system on this - the quintessential American faith that one should rise and fall, succeed or fail, solely on the basis of one's own individual merits and effort. That the individual should not be denied opportunity for reasons over which he has no control, and which may be outright inapplicable to him.

I do concede that wholesale guilt-by-association is logistically simpler and cheaper, of course...

Date: 2006/07/31 15:30:08, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Of course, historically the US has indeed been a melting pot. We accommodated wave after wave of immigrants, and continue to do so. People who didn't share the dominant religion, or anything about the culture - the history and traditions, the government, the diet, the clothing, the language, etc. Yet it worked, and most historians consider that the economic and cultural vigor of the US derives from this very history. Walk into any roomful of people and ask where their ancestors came from. Especially, try a college classroom.

I'm not sure which of these various ancestries you would deem the "pure American culture". I think even the effort misses the point. And strangely enough, all of these various groups and ethnicities buy into the American Dream (which you now characterize as the past seen through the Glasses of Lost Innocence). They're doing very well.

I'm sorry to learn that social mobility no longer obtains. Perhaps I was fooled by the turnover within each 1/5 of income cohorts in the US (something like 90% every 5 years). Maybe I was fooled by the increasing incidence of black, female, Indian and Asian CEOs in large corporations. Maybe I was fooled by the ready adoption of the American language by all groups.

But I suppose if your agenda favors group entitlements, you will see the loss of individual mobility and achievement as a doctrinal requirement. I don't see it.

Finally, I asked how you would feel if you were denied something you desired, that others were NOT denied, on the basis of characteristics you were alleged to possess yet you lacked (and many of them DID possess, but were alleged not to). I take it your are going to pretend that this situation is right and proper. I don't believe you.

(And I admit I'm amused that you can point to movies you feel are immoral, and claim they promote evolution. Why not toss in soccer (boring, must promote evolution), and the color blue (associated with sadness, so that must promote evolution too). I think we understand by now that social programs have both feet mired in Darwinism, yes?)

Date: 2006/07/31 16:26:55, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Shit, is this where you got all these ideas, Paley?

No kidding, I think Paley and Coulter drink from the same meme pool. They both use the same basic technique - start with what they WANT to be true, cherry-pick stuff out of context to support it if possible, generate the most baffling non sequitur interpretations of irrelevant stuff whenever useful, and otherwise just Make Stuff Up.

Coulter "researches" biology in much the same way as one might "research" conservatism by interviewing nothing but imprisoned sex offenders who voted for Bush - and deleting anything they say that might be accurate.

Date: 2006/08/01 07:48:03, Link
Author: Flint
Paley:

Quote
This won't cut it: you need to show past success from people who aren't of Indian, NE Asian, and European ancestry. If you can do so, then I'll happily revise my views. Unfortunately, I'm betting you won't be able to do this.

I hope you realize you have set a moving target. If the immigrants are all Northern Europeans, you claim others from very different cultures won't mix. So we bring in people from India, and they mix. Good enough? Of course not. Well, how about Chinese and other Asians, can't get much different culture than that. Nope, still not good enough.

In other words, you are not satisfied with any PAST immigrant groups, because they all support my case. Instead, I must show the success of *potential* immigrants who haven't had the opportunity yet. And if THEY come and fit in, then of course I still haven't made my case, because I haven't met your criteria: I must demonstrate that *those who have not tried, can not fit!* And the only evidence you'll allow is the track record demonstrated by those who haven't been to the track.

Quote
Flint, you really need to get out more, unless you think "Spanglish" is the national language.

Maybe you're right. The Mexican couple living next door refused to expose their children to Spanish, for fear they'd be marginalized in the adopted country. Hispanic voters in (I think I recall) Arizona voted *against* bilingual education, because it inhibited assimilation.

Quote
Social groups in any modern industrial nation are surprisingly mobile. So why do some groups always seem to lag behind, no matter where they go?

I don't know. It's entirely possible that some identifiable groups are, as a group, lacking the horsepower to compete effectively. But I don't think we can presume this a priori; I think various cultural groups must be given the opportunity to demonstrate this.

Quote
Here's the Paley prediction: Indians, NE Asians, and Whites will have the highest average achievement, while children of African and Caribbean ancestry will regress to their anti-intellectual cultural mean and fall to the bottom.

Maybe we're still at cross purposes here. If I'm willing to grant that this prediction is very likely to be correct, are YOU willing to grant that this need not have anything to do with immigration quotas? Let's put it another way: If a minimum IQ test score were the criterion for immigration, would you accept that as valid?

Quote
The authors have a racist interpretation of this data, but I will soon show why cultural determinism is a better explanation.

Would you be satisfied with a more complex explanation, that factored in culture, biology, history, racism, expectations, and the interactions among these?

Give me a normal child at birth, and give me 7 years. Would you like a moron? A creationist? A scientist? A bigot? John Stuart Mill (check his childhood)? Want to bet against me?

What you seek to do is punish children who fully possess the potential to be model citizens, for what you perceive as the sins of their fathers. The solution for these past sins isn't necessarily barriers to overcoming them. Imagine (just as a mental exercise) a rule that no immigrant from a Ghost-no-no-nation shall be permitted to live within a mile of, or interact with, any other immigrant from that same nation. Would you expect the second generation to sink to the bottom anyway?

Date: 2006/08/01 07:57:34, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Why does a scientist as brilliant as Jerry Coyne waste his time to respond to a jerk ?

Mainly, because the jerk has a very broad readership, is poking buttons to which a majority of US citizens resonate at least somewhat, is providing ammunition that will be quote-mined on fundie websites until #### freezes over (and pounded from pulpits coast to coast, and recited approvingly by millions of parents to millions of infants). And future scientists, if any, must take root and thrive in the soil Coulter is tilling.

Date: 2006/08/01 09:02:52, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

I think we can fairly confidently say that Ghost would have predicted the failure of the Asians in the US culture, and kept them out on those grounds, for the very reasons you claim. Too different, won't assimilate, too heterogeneous to permit true freedom, etc.

But we notice that *after* the Asians come and perform just dandy, Ghost decides that they, like the Indians, "don't count" as immigrants under his rules. But there is only one possible reason for excluding either of these groups from his generalities: they demonstrate that he's wrong. And whatever doesn't fit his requirements can't be used as evidence. Ghost says so.

It's not like we're dealing with anyone who can admit error, regardless of how flagrant the refutation. Just change the rules.

Date: 2006/08/01 09:34:00, Link
Author: Flint
hey, blacks is blacks.

Date: 2006/08/01 13:08:10, Link
Author: Flint
skeptic:

I can't parse this response. Does it mean anything to you?

Quote
I think this is very revealing given the tendency to reject underlying mechanisms in favor of random mutations.

Random mutation (with respect to fitness) plus selection from among the variation IS the underlying mechanism. How can you be saying there is a "revealing tendency" to reject the underlying mechanism in favor of the underlying mechanism? This doesn't make sense.

Quote
I would encourage any movement away from the random mutation + natural selection scheme to encourage research into specific mechanisms.

Same problem. You encourage movement away from the mechanism to encourage research into the mechanism? But the mechanism you want to discourage has been investigated in considerable detail - biologists know many if not most of the causes of mutation, the means of selection, the means of inheriting selected mutations, etc. Other mechanisms (such as drift) are also identified, studied, and at least partially understood. So what do you want?

Quote
In a sense I am in favor of more science which I would not think would be that threatening.
More science than what? Are you saying scientists aren't doing enough science? If anything, they aren't getting enough sleep! Or are you recommending more *funding* for science. I doubt anyone would disagree with that either.

Quote
If we reach a point of identifing specific mechanisms countering random mutation...

What do you mean, countering? Mutations happen. Inexact copies happen. Variation happens. What sort of thing are you looking for? Are you suggesting biologists ignore or pretend not to notice what has already been established to happen?

Date: 2006/08/01 14:10:09, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

You addressed your reply to me, and quoted what I said, yet you seem to be replying to someone else.

Quote
No Flint -- Asians, Jews, and Indians haven't had "longer" to assimilate, especially in America.

But nowhere did I make this claim. What ARE you responding to? My claim was that knowing nothing about these groups except the size of the cultural gap between their traditions and US traditions, you'd have predicted they'd have failed.

Quote
In fact, first generation immigrants from these groups often outperform whites. Look at who has the highest median income -- it ain't whites. So much for your little notion about the invincibility of "institutional racism", and the inability of whites to let other groups succeed.

But nowhere did I say anything about institutional racism or inability of whites to let others succeed. Who ARE you responding to here?

The point I was making (please respond to MY points when you reply to me, it's less confusing that way) is that your criterion of cultural distance doesnt' seem to be very predictive. Your argument as I understood it was that values and morals, worldview if you prefer, must be close enough to permit meta-agreements. Yet here we have groups with NOTHING in common - not history, language, religion, morality, dress, or basic notions like honor, obligation, duty...nothing at all! Yet they fit in just fine. There is been an enormous net GAIN in freedom.

So the point was, whatever you might use as the yardstick of exclusion, cultural gap ain't it. You're going to have to build your bigotry on some other foundation.

Date: 2006/08/02 02:29:05, Link
Author: Flint
jeannot:

I recall reading somewhere that some bacteria (at the very least) have evolved the capability to mutate more easily in stressful conditions. I don't think this involves so much the type of mutation as the ease and frequency of mutation. So it's not entirely random.

I think what skeptic might be complaining about (he isn't very clear) is that biologists are not focusing on the teleological view. Yeah, they're studying how mutations happen, and what those mutations do, and how organisms might change as a result. But they are not studying the overall purpose and goal of mutation - where evolution is trying to get to. God's goals should be implicit in his ministrations; investigate this directly, and we'll understand God better. Maybe.

Date: 2006/08/02 04:33:36, Link
Author: Flint
skeptic:

You seem to be raising much more a semantic issue than a functional issue.

By random, what they're saying is that the changes show no pattern or correlation with respect to survivability. NOT that the mutations have no cause (they are all caused by something).

Quote
Think about this, why is random mutation considered the leading cause of genetic variation when its not actually random?

You need to explain what you mean using some word other than 'random', since I have no idea what this word means to you. Mutations happen without respect to their utility by an organism. Maybe mutations are correlated (and not random) with respect to something else, but not with respect to survivability.

In any case, you might also have an issue with the word mutation. Most genetic variation is the result of imperfect copying. But once again, the imperfections in the copies do not correlate with their usefulness.

So we have a definition: RANDOM is defined as "having no correlation with the factor of interest." In other words, complete knowledge of the possible range of outcomes contributes ZERO predictability of any particular outcome.

Quote
For me that relationship is just not relevant to this conversation.

Yes it is. So long as you insist that mutations are "not random", you are implying that they must be guided somehow. You just pretend otherwise. If mutations are not guided, and not correlated with anything, that's as random as you can get. What more do you want?

Date: 2006/08/02 05:33:04, Link
Author: Flint
As I'm about to show, everyone is wrong but me. I have PROOF! But I'm just too busy to present it at this moment. But stay tuned, it won't be long. And when I do, all your silly and self-serving babble (that is, everything I disagree with) will be revealed for the idiocy it is. Any minute now, honest.

Date: 2006/08/02 05:48:52, Link
Author: Flint
ericmurphy:

I can't avoid the impression that skeptic is trying very hard to get us to say whatever it is he believes in, without coming right out and telling us. And somehow, we just aren't cooperating.

Maybe you're right. Maybe he's convinced that organisms are capable of survival within their niches because sometime in the past they "wanted" to evolve in that direction. Good thing they were able to survive back before they figured out what they wanted, when they were different from what they are today.

Or maybe they were different because they wanted to be, before which they were different yet again because that's what they wanted, and its wants all the way down? I suppose it might be, if "random" is regarded as meaning "intelligently guided".

Date: 2006/08/03 05:04:35, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute

What would we expect? Integrity?

Date: 2006/08/03 05:12:59, Link
Author: Flint
skeptic:

You asked:
Quote
Either random is used and never defined or accompanied by various synonyms like "accidental", "unpredictable", or "spontaneous".  Lets throw this out to the group, what do you guys mean when you say random mutation?  I'm now very interested to see what we come up with.

But I already addressed you and said:

Quote
So we have a definition: RANDOM is defined as "having no correlation with the factor of interest."

Did you ignore this on purpose? Why? Does the word "correlation" have too many syllables for you?

Date: 2006/08/03 07:32:12, Link
Author: Flint
BWE:

Probably some of them are perfectly well aware that if you have a large population of reasonably affluent people begging and pleading for you to sell them a bridge, you might as well start raking it in.

But I recall Behe almost single-handedly demonstrating in Dover that there is no science behind ID of any kind whatsoever, and subsequently crowing about how his testimony clearly put ID firmly into the scientific fold. He believes that!

So I suspect that in most of these cases, we have what Dawkins termed 'virtuoso believing' - the human capability to believe, without any possibility of doubt, in defiance of the most self-evident contradictory reality. The human capability to kid ourselves knows no bounds. These people have emotional needs, in the face of which intellectual objections are helpless.

Date: 2006/08/03 09:10:56, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
But many, if not most, liberals do claim that the races are unclassifiable "abstractions". Of course, this claim doesn't even make sense on a Darwinian level: Erasmus himself would have predicted a branching tree for human subgroups, because a nested hierarchy results from a common ancestor splitting into multiple descendents. But liberals, who worship Comrade Darwin and racial categories when it's time to wreck Christianity or empty the white man's wallet, suddenly become creationists on the Race Issue.

Not atypically, this accusation is partially correct, and partially misleading. Yes, there are genetic differences among people. Yes, some of these genetic differences are associated with clear enough visual cues (and geographical ancestry) to serve as useful differentiators between genetically distinct groups. Sometimes, this is very helpful (for example in making some medical diagnoses or therapies). I doubt even a "Ghost liberal" (not a real creature, but a simplistic enough caricature for us to grasp) would claim that, by and large black people aren't visibly blacker than white people.

So the question here is, should these systemic genetic groupings translate into legal or political distinctions? Should identifiable phylogenetic groups be denied civil rights? If so, which rights? Should we assume that there is One True God, who regards these groups with differing degrees of favor? Should we use these groupings as a basis for setting discriminatory immigration quotas, or designing different educational curricula, or designating seating locations on buses?

Is the "liberal" determination to *pretend* that these separate groups are physiologically similar enough to be treated as legal and political equals, in practice perverse and wrongheaded because the groups are so physically different? Would a "separate and not equal" dual (or more) political and legal system (including different legal rights, different access to services, different educations, different hiring and training opportunities, ad nauseum) be a BETTER FIT considering these genuine genetic groupings?

Clearly, Ghost thinks so, and the hated liberals want to go on pretending they're all human.

Date: 2006/08/03 10:13:15, Link
Author: Flint
Ghost:

Quote
The existence of racial categories in no way implies different treatment under the law, and only an imbecile would believe otherwise.

Uh, I trust you understand that varying immigration quotas are precisely "different treatment under the law." Perhaps I misunderstood you? You SEEMED to be saying you favored this form of legal discrimination.

Quote
You were the one who told anecdotes about black employees not working when the boss's back was turned.

Yes, those stories were true. But perhaps you and I would draw different conclusions from them. My question is, would any visibly distinct group with the history blacks have in the US, right up to the present day, behave differently? Differently how? How much of this spite-the-man mentality is racial, how much is cultural or historical, how much is due to (problematic) congenital stupidity?

Anyway, I'm trying to address your arguments, even if you don't like how they look reflected back at you. I've agreed that there are genetic differences. I agreed that we can make these groupings objectively (that is, double-blind processes would produce them). I even agreed that recognizing these groupings is occasionally critical, even life-saving. What are you asking for now?

Date: 2006/08/03 10:41:13, Link
Author: Flint
Quote
Guys, once again you all miss my point. I wish I could bring the entire world up to the American standard of living, but resources are limited, so it's important to use what you have as efficiently as possible.

Personally, I regard these as very murky waters. Yes, it's a truism that resources are limited. But this has always been the case everywhere, yet some have done far better than others even despite far fewer resources. One need only contemplate what the Japanese have accomplished despite living on a few fairly small islands devoid of oil and very little of anything else. Even living space and arable land is limited by terrain. Yet the Japanese have built themselves a living standard no nation in the world can look down on.

And this implies that it's not physical resources