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January 8, 2018 | 15 Comments

Jaws and the Meaning of Life

Stream: What the Atheist Claim of the Meaninglessness of Life Would Mean (If it were True)

Links fixed!

There is a scene early on in the killer-shark movie Jaws which has marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) explains to Amity’s Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) the nature of sharks.

“Mr Vaughn,” says Hooper, “What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine—an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim, and eat, and make little sharks. And that’s all.”

Is this explanation true? If so, then why doesn’t it also apply to ocelots? What else besides running, eating, and making little ocelots does this carnivorous beastie do?

And if it works for sharks and ocelots, why not also for dandelions, cockroaches, and ratbirds (pigeons)? And if for them, why not for all life? Why not for you, dear reader?

After all, what else do people do except scurry about, eat, and make more people?

A bag of bones

If life can be reduced to biology, to nothing but chemical and physical interactions, then the explanation that all life, including our own, is meaningless futile repetition must be true.

Don’t pass too quickly by “meaningless.” This is the main point. If our lives are solely biology, then our lives have no meaning. This is a stronger conclusion than you might think. For it follows that any meaning anybody ascribes to any event in life is itself meaningless. Any and all moral judgments are mere prejudice, the result of particular arrangements of chemicals operating under unbreakable physical laws.

If all moral judgments are prejudice, then everything anybody ever thinks or says is opinion. And it’s forced opinion, at that. All opinions are the result of chemicals pushing this way and that, forming unwilled patterns in brains, under the control of nobody.

Who asked for your opinion?

You say rape is wrong? That’s just your opinion. Worse, it’s an opinion you have no choice but to believe, since the opinion is formed in a brain operating under fixed laws. You think murder is immoral? Well, there is no such thing as immorality, and cannot be, since for acts to be moral or immoral, acts cannot be meaningless. Meaning defines morality.

So what?, you might think. Individual people might be nothing more than their biology, because what really matters is the human race itself.

But this must be false, because []

Science is not the answer

Science cannot rescue us from this bleak conclusion.

Celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of pointing out the meaningless of life.[]

The problem of evil

What we have been discussing is the Problem of Evil. If atheism is true, if life really is nothing more than biology, then []

Put some meaning in your life and click here to read the rest.

Addendum

I was having a debate with an atheist over this Stream article. He insisted that “not causing unnecessary harm” (à la Sam Harris) was the atheistic objective moral judgment sought. It isn’t, as the word “unnecessary” proves. Causing any harm, necessary or unnecessary, is without meaning, if atheism is true.

January 7, 2018 | 3 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Evil is Not Intended, Part II

Previous post.

We continue with the proof that evil is not intended, with some seemingly convincing counter-arguments, and the answers to these. Two Chapters this week.

Arguments which seem to prove that evil is not apart from intention

1 Now, there are certain points which seem to run counter to this view.

2 That which happens apart from the intention of the agent is called fortuitous, a matter of chance, something which rarely happens. But the occurrence of evil is not called fortuitous, a matter of chance, nor does it happen rarely, but always or in most cases. For corruption always accompanies generation in the things of nature. Even in the case of volitional agents sin occurs in most cases, since “it is as difficult to act in accord with virtue as to find the center of a circle,” as Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics [II, 9: 1109a 24]. So, evil does not seem to happen apart from intention.

Notes And we know by now what “fortuitous” and “by chance” means.

3 Again, in Ethics III [5: 1113b 16] Aristotle expressly states that “wickedness is voluntary.” He proves this by the fact that a person voluntarily performs unjust acts: “now it is unreasonable for the agent of voluntarily unjust actions not to will to be unjust, and for the self-indulgent man not to wish to be incontinent” [1114a 11]; and he proves it also by the fact that legislators punish evil men as doers of evil in a voluntary way [1113b 22]. So, it does not seem that evil occurs apart from the will or the intention.

4 Besides, every natural change has an end intended by nature. Now, corruption is a natural change, just as generation is. Therefore, its end, which is a privation having the rational character of evil, is intended by nature: just as are form and the good, which are the ends of generation.

Answers to these arguments

1 So that the solution of these alleged arguments maybe made more evident we should notice that evil may be considered either in a substance or in its action. Now, evil is in a substance because something which it was originally to have, and which it ought to have, is lacking in it. Thus, if a man has no wings, that is not an evil for him, because he was not born to have them; even if a man does not have blond hair, that is not an evil, for, though he may have such hair, it is not something that is necessarily due him. But it is an evil if he has no hands, for these he is born to, and should, have—if he is to be perfect. Yet this defect is not an evil for a bird. Every privation, if taken properly and strictly, is of that which one is born to have, and should have. So, in this strict meaning of privation, there is always the rational character of evil.

Notes It remains to be seen whether lack of hair is as evil as hair-regrowth advertisements tell us. (Joke.) We are back to essence and nature again. Everybody knows at least the broad outlines of man’s essence. Review this material from Book 1 if necessary (use the SAMT category).

2 Now, since it is in potency toward all forms, matter is indeed originated to have all of them; however, a certain one of them is not necessarily due it, since without this certain one it can be actually perfect. Of course, to each thing composed of matter some sort of form is due, for water cannot exist unless it have the form of water, nor can fire be unless it possess the form of fire. So, the privation of such forms in relation to matter is not an evil for the matter, but in relation to the thing whose form it is, it is an evil for it; just as the privation of the form of fire is an evil for fire.

And since privations, just as much as habits and forms, are not said to exist, except in the sense that they are in a subject, then if a privation be an evil in relation to the subject in which it is, this will be evil in the unqualified sense. But, otherwise, it will be an evil relative to something, and not in the unqualified sense. Thus, for a man to be deprived of a hand is an unqualified evil, but for matter to be deprived of the form of air is not an unqualified evil, though it is an evil for the air.

Notes A man does not have or possess a lack of hands: he lacks hands. Privation is an absence, not a presence.

3 Now, a privation of order, or due harmony, in action is an evil for action. And because there is some due order and harmony for every action, such privation in an action must stand as evil in the unqualified sense.

4 Having observed these points, we should understand that not everything that is apart from intention is necessarily fortuitous or a matter of chance, as the first argument claimed. For, if that which is apart from intention be either an invariable or a frequent consequence of what is intended, then it does not occur fortuitously or by chance. Take, for example, a man who directs his intention to the enjoyment of the sweetness of wine: if intoxication is the result of drinking the wine, this is neither fortuitous nor a matter of chance. Of course, it would be a matter of chance if this result followed in but few cases.

5 So the evil of natural corruption, though a result which is apart from the intention of the agent of generation, is nevertheless an invariable consequence, for the acquisition of one form is always accompanied by the privation of another form. Hence, corruption does not occur by chance, nor as something that happens in few cases; even though privation at times is not an unqualified evil, but is only so in relation to some definite thing, as has been said. However, if it be the kind of privation which takes away what is due to the thing generated, this will be by chance and unqualifiedly evil, as in the case of the birth of monsters. For, such a thing is not the necessary result of what is intended; rather, it is repugnant to what is intended, since the agent intends a perfect product of generation.

6 Now, evil in relation to action occurs in the case of natural agents as a result of the defect of an active power. Hence, if the agent has a defective power, the evil is a result apart from the intention, but it will not be a chance result because it follows necessarily from this kind of agent, provided this kind of agent is subject to this defect of power, either always or frequently. However, it will be a matter of chance if this defect is rarely associated with this kind of agent.

Notes Rarely as not expected.

7 In the case of voluntary agents, the intention is directed to some particular good, if action is to result, for universals cause no movement, but particular things do, since actions go on in their area. Therefore, if a particular good that is intended has attached to it, either always or frequently, a privation of good according to reason, then the result is a moral evil; and not by chance, but either invariably or for the most part. This is clearly the case with a man who wills to enjoy a woman for the sake of pleasure, to which pleasure there is attached the disorder of adultery. Hence, the evil of adultery is not something which results by chance. However, it would be an instance of chance evil if some wrong resulted in a few cases from the object intended: for example, in the case of a person who kills a man while shooting at a bird.

8 That a person may frequently direct his intention to goods of this kind, to which privations of good according to reason are consequent, results from the fact that most men live on the sense level, because sensory objects are better known to us, and they are more effective motives in the domain of particular things where action goes on. Now, the privation of good according to reason is the consequence of most goods of this kind.

9 From this it is evident that, though evil be apart from intention, it is nonetheless voluntary, as the second argument suggests, though not essentially but accidentally so. For intention is directed to an ultimate end which a person wills for its own sake, but the will may also be directed to that which a person wills for the sake of something else, even if he would not will it simply for itself.

In the example of the man who throws his merchandise into the sea in order to save himself [cf. Ethics III, 1: 1110a 8-29], he does not intend the throwing away of the merchandise but his own safety; yet he wills the throwing not for itself but for the sake of safety. Likewise, a person wills to do a disorderly action for the sake of some sensory good to be attained; he does not intend the disorder, nor does he will it simply for itself, but for the sake of this result. And so, evil consequences and sins are called voluntary in this way, just as is the casting of merchandise into the sea.

Notes Examples should now be brought readily to mind.

10 The answer to the third difficulty is similarly evident. Indeed, the change of corruption is never found without the change of generation; neither, as a consequence, is the end of corruption found without the end of generation. So, nature does not intend the end of corruption as separated from the end of generation, but both at once. It is not the unqualified intention of nature that water should not exist, but that there should be air, and while a thing is so existing it is not water. So, nature directly intends that this existing thing be air; it does not intend that this thing should not exist as water, except as a concomitant of the fact that it is to be air. Thus, privations are not intended by nature in themselves, but only accidentally; forms, however, are intended in themselves.

11 It is clear, then, from the foregoing that what is evil in an unqualified sense is completely apart from intention in the workings of nature, as in the birth of monsters; on the other hand, that which is not evil in the unqualified sense, but evil in relation to some definite thing, is not directly intended by nature but only accidentally.

January 6, 2018 | 4 Comments

Insanity & Doom Update XVII

Item Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.

If you buy this view of responsibility, you might eventually admit that having many children is wrong, or at least morally suspect, for standard environmental reasons: Having a child imposes high emissions on the world, while the parents get the benefit. So like with any high-cost luxury, we should limit our indulgence.

The argument is so idiotic that there is no reason to risk carpal tunnel to refute it. But because there is always some cheeseball who will claim we couldn’t really refute it, this. If there were no people, there’d be no reason to “protect” the earth, a conclusion premised on the belief people are better than any other thing on the planet.

We can also have fun imagining the author, the class A nitwit Travis Rieder, in a fit of consistency berating his poor parents over their temerity in producing tiny Travis.

Item An Ex-Google Exec Is Founding a Religion Where People Worship an AI God

Anthony Levandowski, the former Google and Uber executive currently at the centre of a bombshell lawsuit filed by Waymo, says he’s serious about starting a religion centred around super-smart artificial intelligence…

Levandowski is not the only tech luminary to worry about an super-intelligent AI, which others refer to as “strong AI” or the Singularity, although he prefers the term “Transition.”

This item proves, if it wasn’t already obvious, that intelligence is more, and even much more, than IQ. As the old saying has it, you have to be smart to be this stupid.

Item Hardcore porn at school? Calls for sex education to get more graphic

The internet has given teenagers access to so much porn, fetish and experimental sex that schools may have to get a lot more graphic when addressing classes, a study has found.

Teenagers are becoming more adventurous and are moving away from ‘traditional’ intercourse, according to researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine(LSHTM) and University College London. By monitoring sexual habits, the team found the number of 16-24s moving away from traditional sexual intercourse had doubled. Access to porn online was blamed as one of the problems.

There was never any reason for sex “education”, proved by the obvious fact that people managed to reproduce fine before there was “sex ed”, but very badly after “sex ed”. The “researchers”, as many do, confuse cause and effect.

Item How Two Reverends are Queering the Modern-Day Church

Reverend M. Barclay, who is ordained within the United Methodist Church, admits there’s not a lot of work out there for gender non-binary trans queer pastors…

[The sexually confused reverend says] When people started following Christ, it was a movement for liberation, for wholeness. We certainly recognize that Jesus Christ was crucified by the state because of his radical commitment to the marginalized and all people. It’s really unfortunate just how difficult it is to see a commitment for that same set of values by churches today. We’re looking forward to re-centering that movement aspect; not just social justice, but our internal spiritual lives as well.

In the old days, to queer something was to foul it up badly, possibly beyond repair. It means exactly the same these days.

Item When horses can be dogs: Swedish book for toddlers promotes transgender lifestyles

A book published in Sweden for toddlers and preschoolers depicting a transgender man who wears women’s clothes and lipstick, as well as a horse who believes it’s a dog, has sparked mixed reactions.

Disgust mixed with loathing?

Item Backlash as transgender weightlifter qualifies for Commonwealth Games

Laurel Hubbard has been named to the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team for the Commonwealth Games, sparking controversy in the sport…

Australian Weightlifting Federation chief executive Michael Keelan on Friday claimed Hubbard would have both a physiological and mental edge over her rivals.

Speaking to the Australian Associated Press, Keelan noted that: “If you’ve been a male and you’ve lifted certain weights and then you suddenly transition to a female, then psychologically you know you’ve lifted those weights before.

Hubbard is a man, and a big man at that, pretending to be a woman. Unless he runs up against a bigger man pretending to be a woman, he will easily beat the ladies aligned against him.

What’s a feminist to do? She insists men and women are equal, so why not have no sexual distinction in sports? Yet the feminist at least secretly believes women are superior to men (which they are, at being women), and this man Hubbard isn’t helping the belief.

You have to love this fellow Keelan’s frightened answer. If you lifted a weight before, you know you’ve lifted the weight before. Brave, brave.

January 5, 2018 | 10 Comments

Why Most Members Of The Media Are Leftists — Guest Post by Kevin Groenhagen

Both Barack and Michelle Obama made speeches in which they compared the positive “what is” with the normative “what should be.” “There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity,” Barack Obama said in a May 2011 speech. “Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”

In an April 2009 speech at a London girl’s school, Michelle Obama noted that, before they were married, Barack Obama took her on a date to a “community meeting.” “As he talked to the residents in that community center, he talked about two concepts,” she stated. “He talked about ‘the world as it is’ and ‘the world as it should be.’ And I talked about this throughout the entire campaign.” She related the same story a few months earlier at the Democratic National Convention: “Barack stood up that day, and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about ‘The world as it is’ and ‘The world as it should be.'” She concluded her speech at the convention by declaring that she and her husband had committed themselves “to building the world as it should be.”

The Washington Post’s Melinda Henneberger noted in 2012 that Michelle Obama, in her remarks at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, referred to Saul Alinsky, the founder of modern community organizing, when she said her husband had won her heart by speaking of turning the world as it is into the world as it should be.

It is true that Alinsky used almost identical words in Rules for Radicals. For example, in the prologue he wrote, “As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be.” However, that concept did not originate with Alinsky. After all, Milton Friedman, a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, discussed the concept a decade before the publication of Rules for Radicals:

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, intellectuals in the United States were overwhelmingly persuaded that capitalism was a defective system inhibiting economic well-being and thereby freedom, and that the hope for the future lay in a greater measure of deliberate control by political authorities over economic affairs. The conversion of the intellectuals was not achieved by the example of any actual collectivist society, though it undoubtedly was much hastened by the establishment of a communist society in Russia and the glowing hopes placed in it. The conversion of the intellectuals was achieved by a comparison between the existing state of affairs, with all its injustices and defects, and a hypothetical state of affairs as it might be. The actual was compared with the ideal.

Indeed, the concept of “what is and what should be” can be traced to Karl Marx. Michael Harrington, the chair of Democratic Socialists of America until his death in 1989, noted in Socialism, “There was, the nineteen-year-old Karl Marx wrote to his father, a basic contradiction in German philosophy between ‘what is and what should be.'” Harrington also noted that “… Marx claimed to have solved that contradiction between ‘what is and what should be’ which he first confronted as a young philosophy student…. The truth was not to be discovered in a Hegelian retrospect upon the past; it was to be created by means of a social revolution which would make the future.”

It appears this Marxist concept of “what is and what should be” is now promoted by many on the left, including those in the media.

In 1962, the year I was born, Walter Cronkite began serving as the anchor for the CBS Evening News. He continued in that position until 1981, the year that I graduated from high school. I literally grew up hearing Cronkite’s newscasts and, like most of those in my generation, remember that he closed each newscast with catchphrase “And that’s the way it is.”

As a journalist, Cronkite tended to focus on “what is,” and, as a result, became one of the most trusted men in the country. After leaving journalism, he was much more open about his liberalism and started talking more about “what should be.”

Today, it is obvious that many journalists would rather focus on “what should be” instead of “what is.” “And I believe that good journalism, good television, can make our world a better place,” CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour said in 2000. Of course, it’s not the job of a journalist to make the world a better place, i.e., changing the world from what it is to what it should be. Nevertheless, many journalism schools and media outlets echo Amanpour’s sentiment. Here are just a few examples:

  • “As a [Journalism & Mass Communication] major, you will be able to acquire an education that will make two critical differences in your life. First, it will prepare you to satisfy your interests, advance your causes, and express your passions. In this way, it will help you make good progress toward realizing yourself. Second, it will prepare you to serve your organizations, communities, nation, and world. In this way, it will help you make the kind of difference that moves humanity forward…. You will be ready to make the world a better place for yourself and others.” (North Carolina A&T State University)
  • “It doesn’t matter the medium—we teach you how to gather information, analyze it, boil it down, and then communicate it effectively, accurately, quickly and ethically—all to make the world a better place. That is journalism.” (University of Arizona)
  • “Journalism should also shine a light on what is working, so people can act on their innate desire to help their neighbor and make their communities, and their world, a better place.” — Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post
  • “In memory of Stone and Holt Weeks, following their tragic deaths in 2009, NPR and the Washington Post have partnered to give a promising individual the opportunity to launch a career in journalism…. The Stone and Holt Weeks Fellow learns about the role of journalism in ‘making the world a better place.’ This Fellowship offers a broad exposure to the relationship between journalism and public education, citizenship, social change and democracy, and will learn that a major aim of journalism, as expressed a century ago by author Finley Peter Dunne, is ‘to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.'”

If a major goal of journalism is, as NPR and the Washington Post claim, “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” and if journalists are supposed to change the world to make it a better place, wouldn’t journalists who subscribe to these beliefs agree with this statement offered by radicals Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn in Race Course Against White Supremacy (2009): “If you want fundamental change, tie your fate to the most oppressed”? If that’s the case, I believe this helps explain why most journalists are biased in favor of the Democratic Party, which supposedly cares more about the oppressed.

Of course, we all believe things could be better than they currently are. However, in an attempt to make things better, those on the left tend to enact legislation that would only work in some unattainable utopia. As Paul A. Sexson and Stephen B. Miles, Jr., noted in The Challenge of Conservatism (1964), “[T]he liberal, as a liberal, thinks so much in terms of should that he simply fails to see the is. The liberal, as a liberal, is unable to handle realities.”

If socialists and their allies in the media merely influenced themselves in Washington, D.C., New York, and other liberal strongholds, constitutionalists would have little reason to be concerned. However, they do not stop there. “One of our key strategic goals is to surround swing voters and our opponents with an echo chamber reflecting our values and positions—to create a sense that our views represent the consensus of the mainstream,” Robert Creamer, the progressive community organizer and political consultant who was suspected of inciting violence at Trump campaign rallies in 2016, wrote in Listen to Your Mother: Stand Up Straight!: How Progressives Can Win (2007). Further, “Elite outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post are particularly important in creating a bandwagon effect of ‘conventional wisdom’ in the media.”

Unfortunately, the left-wing echo chamber has a serious effect on the voting habits of the so-called “low information voters.” As Tim Groseclose demonstrated in Left Turn, the liberal bias of members of the media causes our political views to make a left turn—that is, to become more liberal.

The mainstream media are not going to become reasonably “fair and balanced” any time in the near future. Several generations of journalists have been corrupted by the belief that their job is to “make the world a better place.” Complaining about that corruption is an exercise in futility. We constitutionalists need to realize that, accept it, and then work on finding ways to share our values and positions directly with the voters.

Kevin Groenhagen is the author of The Tea Party Challenge: Understanding the Threat Posed by the Socialist Coalition.