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Everything posted by realityChemist

  1. (This part of the post is mostly anecdotal, so feel free to pass it up if you're not interested.) This is actually very relevant to my life right now. As part of a psychology 101 course I'm taking right now, I'm required to perform 10 hours of "volunteer" work (obviously it's not voluntary if it's being required of me). While I'm strongly against the entire premise, the paper that is to be based off of this work is very important to my grade in the class. So, I have taken advantage of what freedom they have given me with this project: the choice of where to put my time. I'm going to be volunteering at a local organization of which I am a frequent member (I have never volunteered there before, but I often take part in the activities they organize and the community that has formed around the organization). Thus, I will be directly creating value for myself by actively working to improve that environment. I'm much to busy, really, to even be thinking about putting in volunteer hours right now (for one thing, I have SATs this Saturday), but I need them by the end of next week. If I didn't need them, I probably never would have taken the initiative to do any volunteer work at all, even though the location I chose does create value for me. If left to my own devices, I would place a higher value on my time used for studying for the SATs or completing my online Latin class that I would on volunteering at this organization, but because I need to volunteer, I feel I've made the best of a bad situation. (End anecdote.) My question is this: If I'm voluntarily taking this Psychology course, which I chose to sign up for (it wasn't required) and which I could drop at any time (I could have dropped it immediately upon seeing the service requirement on the syllabus, on the first day of class; I didn't because I placed a very high value on completing this psychology course), am I technically being forced into volunteering? I would say no, since I knew the class would involve a service project, but I may be missing some important point.
  2. Thank you very much. I assumed it was something like that, but I wasn't sure, and that cleared things up tremendously.
  3. Can someone please define "knowledge problem?" It is used here in the context of a term everyone should be familiar with, but I am not. Enlighten me, if you will.
  4. Freud was lead to his conclusions about the way the mind works because his only subjects for study were sexually repressed, hysterical (literally), Victorian-era Austrian women. Given only that subset of the population to work with, most people would likely come to similar conclusions. Not to defend his theory (or psychoanalysis in general) in any way; it takes no account whatsoever for other motivating factors and values in human life, and vastly oversimplifies many things. Besides, that wasn't really the subject under discussion in this thread.
  5. I know I probably shouldn't have used the Genie example (it was like the metaphysical equivalent of a lifeboat question in ethics), but I thought it illustrated well the fact that there are circumstances beyond your control that can severely impair a person's ability. One thing I didn't mention, though, was that Genie did eventually learn the rudimentary use of language; she overcame her handicap to quite an amazing degree, considering how severe a handicap it was. I definitely wasn't using it as an argument against the O'ist point, just as an illustration of what I meant (as I said moments ago). Making the distinction between different types of psychology is also important, you're right. There are many approaches to psychology, not all of them equally valid. I think I have a good grasp of what the ARI was getting at (or, perhaps, failing to get at) with their piece. Thank you all again for your help! I'm glad I discovered this site. It's a great place to get questions answered and to partake in lively, (mostly) intellectual debate.
  6. Ayn Rand actually wrote an essay that dealt with this subject. I believe it is published in For the New Intellectual, but I could be wrong about that. She put forward the idea of federally insured and enforced contracts. Basically, the Fed would only treat contracts as valid and enforceable if the signatories had paid a sum to the Fed in advance. Otherwise, any contract signed would be little more than an agreement (ie. it would still be unethical to violate it, but not actionable by law). This could certainly generate a steady stream of revenue, especially in a thriving capitalist economy. The amount of the sum could be adjusted based on the type of contract, so that large corporate entities would foot a larger bill for merger contracts and the like than a small business owner would have to for a hiring contract with an employee. Such measures would allow the government to generate reasonable income from this legislature, while still keeping excessive costs down for small business startups. Obviously, this idea could not be extended into property ownership. If you sell a car to another party, it is legally now their car, and you can't just take it back (EDIT: in a slightly more ridiculous example, a supermarket could not decide to raid the kitchens of their patrons and revoke all of the food they had previously sold them). That brings up another area that couldn't be covered in federally backed contracts: use of force. Since, by definition, the government has a legal monopoly on the use of force, it couldn't back contracts giving the right to use force to some other party, nor could it allow the use of force even in situations where no federally backed contract had been signed. You can see how laws can quickly get tangled up in themselves (one good reason to keep them to a minimum). Certainly this idea would not provide enough income to back federal spending on the scale you are suggesting, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction (potentially a large step).
  7. Thank you all very much. Your answers have been extremely helpful. I think the note that genes and upbringing can limit the choices available to you (brought up by aequalsa) is a very important one to make, and, when it's considered on a more complex level than what beverage to drink, fits nicely right in as influencing your choices. Also, Return of the Primitive is one of the few non-fiction books by Rand that I have yet to read. That article probably would have illuminated things for me. I plan to read it over the summer (along with finally reading OPAR, because it is referenced so often on this site).
  8. I was reading through the Objectivism Essentials page on the ARI website (found here), because I wanted to link it to a friend. However, I came across this sentence, under the Human Nature section (emphasis added): I'm curious about this. Specifically the bolded part. I understand the cases against God, fate, et cetera, but I want to know if Objectivism has a case against upbringing and genetics, or if this is merely an assertion made by the ARI without reference to reality. I'm taking a college level Intro to Psychology course right now, and modern psychology seems to contradict this. A study conducted by McClearn et. al. in 1977 determined that about 50% of a person's general intelligence (IQ) is inherited, and attributed the other 50% to environmental factors during a child's upbringing. Other aspects of intelligence have been measured and assigned heritability values as well: about 32% of spatial ability is inherited, and 55% of verbal ability and memory is inherited. While this certainly doesn't make man the "victim" of forces beyond his control, it does point toward a certain level of determinism (in a scientific, rather than religious, sense). Let's take things to an extreme for a moment, and examine the case of the child dubbed Genie, sometimes known as "The Wild Child." She spent the first thirteen years of her life immobilized in her bedroom, with limited human contact. She was rendered incapable of all but the most basic speech, and she walked stiffly. Without getting into any of the other aspects that the Genie's case touches on, it certainly seems to make a case for the importance of upbringing on a person's life. For further reading, I direct you to this Wikipedia article. Admittedly, Genie's condition could have been due to severe mental problems, but in other cases of "feral children," similar problems with language use were noted. I want to hear what you all have to say about this. Was this statement made by the ARI consistent with Objectivism, as stated by Rand, and, if so, does Objectivism have a defense against this modern science (should it)? I am proud to call myself an Objectivist, but this particular issue really bothers me.
  9. Indeed it is available to be discovered. There is no disputing that point (we're all here, after all). And I think the point of his speech was not to advocate any morality in particular. He was focusing in on atheism, which is neither a philosophical system nor a primary concern of those who already have a sound philosophical system to follow. It is secondary, and I think that is where a lot of people fall down. They replace belief in a deity with non-belief, and leave it at that. Most of them never follow up and really answer the question, "If it's not divinely inspired, where does morality come from?" Objectivism gives a sound answer to that question. Now, I'm not saying that he had the right ideas in mind when he suggested his methods for disseminating ideas, but what I am suggesting is that perhaps there are better methods for letting people know that there's a viable alternative to the bankrupt system of altruism which most of the world practices today. I know that there are already groups who are trying to educate people about Objectivism, and a lot of students of Objectivism are particularly pleased when other people get interested and start taking a responsibility for their own minds, but perhaps if there were some sort of formal institution in place with the purpose of getting people interested in Objectivism we could really gain some influence in the world; perhaps we would have the numbers to overcome that first barrier of setting up a sound philosophical base among the people and begin the daunting challenge of trying to cut down the cumbersome and deadly behemoth that is government today. After all, we know that it can't work in the other order: philosophical change must, by necessity, come before political change if it is to be effective at all. And the fact that there is already moral guidance is irrelevant to the discussion, really. There has always been moral guidance, from the most primitive of religions and social systems on up. The fact is that what we need is an objectively sound system of moral guidance. This exists in the form of rational philosophy (O'ism). Like I said, though, the problem is not that the system isn't there, because it is, the problem is helping people find it. We can have the coolest, most crystal-clear spring of intellectual wealth that exists, but it does no good to the horses unless there's someone there to lead them to it (that's not to say, of course, that they will drink when shown). In theory that's the job of the intellectuals and philosophers, but if we're being totally honest, with a few exceptions, they've been doing a pretty poor job. Intellectual activism benefits us all in the end. A rational world is a better world for all those involved, and so it behooves us to look for a way to bring that world into being. The question then is how to do it. At least some of de Botton's ideas are worth considering.
  10. I think we're getting a bit away from the original thrust of the TED talk, but that's okay. The discussion continues regardless. However, if we want to address the idea of "Atheism 2.0" I think we need to take a step back for a second and reexamine some things. First of all, the speaker at the conference is not an Objectivist, so some of his ideas don't mesh with Objectivism. For example, he advocated didactic learning (or learning by rote; memorization out of context), which is clearly at odds with the O'ist position that one must understand why a thing is true -- why reason is the best way for man to live, why anarcho-capitalism is not a viable political idea, why altruism is not a moral system by which to live one's life. Also, religion is not what he is advocating. He is advocating some of the methods of religion, such as intellectuals giving sermons rather than lectures. In this case, he defines sermons as imparting information on how to live one's life (morality), whereas lectures put forth some piece of information or topic of study. Again, he is advocating didactic learning, but if instead of imparting morality through rote you explain why a thing is moral, sermons (as defined) could be an effective method for spreading and concretizing ideas. Also, the word faith is being bandied about, by some, as if it did not have a concrete definition. Faith is defined as, "confidence or trust in a person or thing," specifically, "belief that is not based on proof." As such, it is at odds with any philosophy of reason, which requires proof for concepts in the framework that reality exists and we are capable of perceiving it. In our every day lives we hear a lot of things that we take with at least some measure of faith, for convenience's sake (we hear that scientists have discovered ice on Mars, we say, "Oh, that's interesting," and move on without verifying this irrefutably, unless we're really interested or in the same field of study), but we can allow ourselves to do this because, in theory, the scientists are working with reason and within the scientific method, which has been objectively shown to be our most reliable method for obtaining information about reality. This isn't always a good practice, because, more often that one would think, scientists don't properly follow the scientific method and report faulty results, but for things that don't directly impact our lives it's more efficient to take the scientists' word for it than to spend hours verifying the efficacy of their testing procedure by taking a fine-toothed comb to their journal publications. This is not to say that reason is somehow flawed or that faith is the better of the two, just that if we attempted to verify for ourselves, independent of outside help, every piece of the accumulated knowledge of the ages as well as all new science, we would spend our lives cloistered in a laboratory, repeating experiments that have already been done ad nauseam.(I think I made that clear, but I'd be happy to clarify if someone's not following.) And I believe that's all I have to say for now. If I forgot something I'll add it in later.
  11. The community is out there, if you know where to look. http://www.reasonrally.org/ I really wish I could go, but I don't have a car of my own at this point (and even if I did, gas to DC would be atrocious) and I will never convince my family to go (spiritualists, some more than others). That Fellowship of Reason looks promising, but I'm pretty far from Georgia. Perhaps if I ever move there... Unfortunately, these kinds of church-like communities (other than actual churches) don't exist in my area (Maine...), so I will have to wait until I live in a more populated part of the country to look for something like this. I think the idea of having a community in which to share ideas and associate is a wonderful thing, but the sad truth is that, traditionally, these kinds of organizations are religious in nature.
  12. I found an interesting video on TED.com today, in which speaker Alain de Botton says that, while we need not agree with religions, we (meaning atheists in general, not specifically objectivists) may want to look into adopting some of their methods. I don't agree with everything that he says, but he made some interesting points. I especially liked what he had to say about art (his view seems rather O'ist). Below I've provided a link to the video (19:21 long), which includes a complete transcript on the webpage. http://www.ted.com/t...theism_2_0.html
  13. Well, by my understanding, they don't have volume in the traditional sense. Photons only have volume in the sense that, given certain parameters, their exact position can be calculated. However I don't claim to be an expert in quantum physics, and this whole thing is really an aside to the main discussion (and, ultimately, a point we agree upon). I'll concede this point. We don't have any evidence either way on this, really, and because we only have the one data point (us) either claim can be seen as equally true (although, in reality, only one is true, as per the laws of noncontradiction and excluded middle), since we can posit either way.
  14. I haven't finished reading your comment (let alone this thread) yet, but I feel the need to point out this error. A photon is an elementary force carrying particle with exactly zero mass. On the other hand, any type of atom has measurable mass, making even a humble hydrogen ion (effectively a proton) literally, not figuratively, infinitely more massive than a photon. So, although your statement was incorrect, the assertion that intelligent life could exist with a body the size of a photon is still utterly ridiculous (unless you want to assert a fundamental mind-body dichotomy, which may be true for extraterrestrial life, in which case a consciousness could theoretically exist independently of any massive particles such as the atoms of which we are made. I find the idea of a consciousness evolving without any sort of mater physically binding it to the universe akin to the idea of a god though, as it is almost certainly 100% unprovable). While I'm writing, I would like to address one more issue. Most of the conjecture so far has assumed that "life" consists only of carbon-based organisms such as ourselves, and that the basic requisites for life in the universe will be similar to ours. This is fallacious, because we have no evidence to suggest that ours is the only viable form of life that can exist. When I talk about this I tend to point people toward the episode of Star Trek (the original series) in which the Enterprise discovers a planet that is inhabited by silicon-based life forms (silicon was chosen because it is chemically quite similar to carbon). To understand that this is true, we first need to acknowledge that life, ultimately, is chemically based. While it is true a substance such as water is helpful in forming life, it is in no way a requisite. The reason water is so commonly cited as a requirement for the beginnings of life is that is is a polar substance, meaning that ionic compounds disassociate when dissolved in it, forming various aqueous solutions (a term you may recall from high school chemistry) which are very conducive to various chemical reactions. However, water is not the only substance which acts in this way. Ionic and polar compounds will dissolve in any polar solvent, such as acetic acid, isopropanol, methanol, acetone, or dichloromethane (CH2Cl2). Some of these, notably methanol, have been found to exist in vast quantities in the universe (a cloud of methanol billions of kilometers wide was discovered relatively recently (2006): http://www.bitsofnew...tent/view/3559/). Additionally, non-polar compounds will dissolve in non-polar solvents, such as benzene, chloroform, and cyclopentane (C5H10). What I'm getting at here is that even a condition that is commonly viewed as a requirement of life (water) may not actually be needed at all. The same holds true for all of our other assumptions about the conditions needed to form life: solutions form in gasses just as they do in liquids (for example, our air consists of oxygen and other gasses dissolved in a nitrogen solvent), so very hot planets can't be ruled out; chemical reactions will take place on very massive (or very slightly massive) planets as they do on an Earth-sized planet (although exact conditions, such as melting and boiling points, will vary), so very large and very small planets cannot be ruled out... The possibilities to form something that we would classify as life are nearly endless, although our ability to recognize it when we find it may be severely limited. And even if we do identify it as life, there is no guarantee that we would ever be able to communicate with it, regardless of the other life form's sophistication level. I think I had more to say, but I kind of lost my train of thought there, so I'll end here and just edit it in if I remember. EDIT: Oh, I remember! So, as I said briefly above, even though extra terrestrial life may in fact be common, one needs to take into consideration a large number of other factors before one can accurately assess the likelihood of contact with extraterrestrial life forms. To start, let us assume a theoretical life form (call them the Snamuh) and follow their path through time, checking to see what sort of factors could inhibit us from being able to communicate with them (I'll make a lot of assumptions about their environment and evolutions, to keep this from being pages long). For connivence's sake, let us assume that the Snamuh began evolving at approximately the same time as the predecessors of humans did. First, they would have to survive long enough on their home planet to become relatively numerous (life may have "started" many times on Earth before any one type of life became numerous enough to last over time). Then they have to develop some sort of primitive method of reproduction (current theories point to micro-bubbles as the first cell wall structures on earth, and these structures spontaneously form and divide based on background motion; we'll assume this structure for simplicity's sake, although it's not the only possible structure). Next, they would need to associate in some way (likely as colonial organisms at first, such as algae, and then evolving with time through associated colonial organisms -- a modern example being sea sponges -- and eventually to multi-cellular organisms). During this time, the Snamuh will need to develop specialized cells which function in specific ways that benefit the organism based on Darwin's theories about environmental stressors and evolution, carried down to a cellular level. Assuming then that the Snamuh evolve successfully as multi-cellular organism, there will now likely be other species which may attempt to predate them. Note that all of this up until now assumes a relatively stable planetary environment. Assume that the Snamuh survive predation and environmental shifts and catastrophes, and are now the dominant species on their planet. Now we have to speculate about the nature of the evolution of intelligence, which is tricky at best. I think it's relatively safe to assume that, after a certain point, organisms will benefit by being able to manipulate their environment. This is likely what lead to intelligence among humans, and what we will assume for the Snamuh too, although it is important to note that it is not necessarily true: intelligence does not have to evolve. Anyway, we now have intelligent beings. So come into play many and various social factors: will the Snamuh inadvertently kill themselves off; will they develop a societal system similar to ours, which would allow for the development of sophisticated technology; will philosophical underdevelopment keep them from ever achieving technological potential? Even assuming that the Snamuh have now evolved to about the same technology level as humans and at the same time, there are still other factors which must be overcome before they can discover, contact, or visit us. First of all, as was already mentioned, the inverse square law means that they won't be able to detect us via electromagnetic radiation, such as radio waves, unless they are very close indeed, or happen to be looking exactly at us with very powerful antennae. Then there is the problem of responding, which takes time: assuming they're relatively close (because we're assuming they spotted us somehow), the constant speed of light c means that it could possibly take centuries for them to notice us and for them to be able to send a signal in return. Even if they do send that signal and it arrives in a reasonable amount of time, we will need to be looking for it, which will not necessarily be the case by the time it gets here. Humankind may be extinct, or we may have lost interest in searching for extraterrestrial neighbors. And don't forget that even getting to this point has been built on countless assumptions, not the least of which is that the Snamuh are biologically capable of responding to electromagnetic radiation (aka light) in the same way that humans are. tl;dr Even though the odds of life existing elsewhere are probably very high, the amount of intervening factors that could prevent us from communicating with them are so enormous that the likelihood of ever actually meeting an extraterrestrial species is highly unlikely. And finally, as an aside, who is to say that humans are not the most advanced species in the universe? Objectively speaking, there has to be one most advanced species? Why do we always assume that extraterrestrial life will be hyper-intelligent? Perhaps we're the bast version that has ever existed. I think the whole premise of the article is ridiculous.
  15. Well, I've made a few posts already, but I thought I should probably introduce myself, in case anyone becomes curious. I am seventeen years old as of the time of this posting and currently a Junior in high school. I live in Maine, and I love the cold weather (hot weather bothers me). I'm interested in studying chemical engineering in college, although I'll probably go for an MBA as well. I have a slight tendency to put off things that other people consider important (such as homework) to read about philosophy or new developments in the physical sciences online (I like to spend time here, on IEEE Spectrum, TED.com, and a few other websites). I first read Atlas Shrugged early in my sophomore year, and have since branched out and read more of her fiction and nonfiction than I had ever intended. In fact, I didn't intend to read AS in the first place. It was on a list of books that everyone should read, and it was the first one on the list that the audiobook purveyor I use (I get a lot of books in audio format so I can listen to them while I work) had for sale. If I believed in such concepts as fate, I would certainly ascribe this to it. Other than school and reading interesting things online, I split my time between theater, National Honor Society, and working to raise money for the Junior class (I'm the class president, so I end up doing a lot of the planning as well as working the events). I used to play a lot of PC video games, but my computer is currently broken and I don't have the funds for a new one. Well, I'll stop there. That's probably already more than anyone here cares to know about me. I'm going to go watch Big Bang Theory with my family.
  16. I really have better things to be doing right now (homework, anyone?), but since I've already spent two hours reading this I may as well reply: I have to say, I'm sort of on the fence about this one. Or, rather, I'm on one side of the fence for one argument, and the other side for another. First of all, I think that Peikoff did likely make this comment off-the-cuff, and he shouldn't be personally attacked for it (unless and until such time as he chooses to clarify himself with a more carefully worded remark, at which point we should judge him one way or another, as he would be making explicit important ideas that he holds). So there's where I stand on that. On the other hand, taking Peikoff's statement verbatim now, I think that the most legitimate defense of his statement -- that the verbal withdrawal of consent, if actions which imply consent are still being performed, does not amount to actual withdrawal of consent -- is flawed when referenced against reality. As one person has already brought up (I think it was sNerd, but I'm not sure), words are not empty abstractions without meaning*. That is to say there is no realistic scenario in which a woman would say, "No," and mean it, while still participating in the act. If you can think of a scenario in which a woman would not attempt to physically remove herself from the scenario after verbally removing consent, I am legitimately interested to hear it. Admittedly, there are times when women will say things without meaning them (as I'm sure we can agree; the concept of token resistance is an example of this), but this is not the sort of situation to which I am referring. Thus, continuing after only verbal cues cannot constitute rape, however a situation in which the woman gives sincere verbal cues but no accompanying non-verbal cues, such as attempting to remove herself from the situation or struggling against her aggressor, would not occur in reality. Because of this, there is no situation in reality that can be morally considered rape that does not involve the use of force in some way (unless, perhaps, the victim is a paralysis patient and has no way to physically resist, in which case verbal cues should be taken as absolute). I would prefer not to discuss rape in a legal context, because I don't believe I am well informed enough on the current laws surrounding the issue to make a valid assessment of what would and would not constitute legal rape. *As an aside, I was reading Aristotle's metaphysics about this earlier today, in which he demonstrates why words must have specific meanings.
  17. Here, I think I've worked out the kinks in the speech. I changed the quote too: Any final opinions? The induction is tomorrow, so there's not much time left for making changes.
  18. I like that. I'm probably going to move the wording around a bit, but that not only fits nicely but has a similar feeling to it as the original sentence seems to intend (although clearly did not mean). Thank you for the assistance.
  19. Let me start off by saying that I'm relatively new to these forums, and I don't know if this is the right forum to post this in. Please feel free to move it if there is a better place for it to be. I am a member of my school's local chapter of the National Honor Society, and we have an induction for new members coming up in a few days. It's the 50th anniversary of the chapter too, so many local alumni will be there. I am supposed to deliver the part of the speech about leadership, but I find some of the content to be highly objectionable. I have asked the head of the chapter, and she said that I could re-write it (in fact, she encouraged me to). I was wondering how you all think I should go about it, as I'm not the best at writing for public addresses. Here is the original piece: I will then read a quote before passing on the podium to the next speaker. I am considering the following Latin proverb. I really like it and I'm taking Latin so pronunciation shouldn't be an issue, but I don't know if the audience would follow along if I suddenly switch to a foreign language. I might warn them beforehand or omit the Latin text altogether: I'm sure you can see where I take issue with the stock piece (the part about self-sacrifice is especially horrible), but I'm not entirely sure what to put in its place. There is already someone else presenting a piece about character, so I probably shouldn't infringe on his territory. I think I also want to change the part that begins ". . . the real leader strives to . . ." Note that I in no way want to moralize to the audience, I just don't want to come across as espousing altruistic ideas such as these. Any pointers in the right direction where the rewrite is concerned would be appreciated.
  20. So, nobody has posted on this for three years, but I just have to say that I agree. Short Skirt/Long Jacket has always struck me as a very Objectivist song, and it's one of my favorites. Also, it is the theme song for the TV show Chuck, about a computer geek turned international super spy.
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