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Vladimir Berkov

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Everything posted by Vladimir Berkov

  1. I am confused. First, just in general, about how my statement is ignorant of Objectivism. Could you please tell me how? Specifically, I am confused as to how my post could even be considered an argument or issue against Objectivism. How is it so at all?
  2. I guess I just don't see them as falsehoods or as products of the "liberal media" but rather as the facts of reality.
  3. Perhaps you are misunderstanding the idea of "bias." The fact that sources of possible bias exist doesn't mean that objectivity is impossible, anymore than the fact that human sensory perception is not omniscient/infallable means objectivity is impossible. In each case, it is simply something that must be taken into account during the pursuit of objectivity.
  4. I am implying nothing of the sort. By bias I specifically mean: "A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment." I am not saying that nobody can know anything, but rather that people generally have a bias in favor of what they individually hold to be true. This bias may inhibit impartial judgment of issues which might threaten this set of individual beliefs. In part this is because we usually judge new sensory/factual information in the context of what we already believe to be true. (the "coherence theory" of truth) This is why you are not going to see an Objectivist lending much weight to a claim that aliens influenced the 2000 presidential election, or that snake healing cured a sick boy. Conversely it is why a Christian will not lend much weight to a claim that Buddhism is the one true religion, or why a Communist will not lend much weight to a claim that capitalism benefits the proletariat.
  5. As I said above, the claims of such people should be disregarded. However, not all scientists studying climate change/global warming fall into that category. There isn't this bipolarity of scientists where either you are a rabid environmentalists who don't care what the numbers say or else an objectivist scientist who properly sees no inherent value in nature and conducts methodic, reasoned research. There are a whole lot of scientists out there who either think humans might be the agent of climate change or else think at least in some instances humans are changing the environment. Such people are not necessarily saying "scientific fact takes a back seat." I think we will have to agree to disagree about this. All humans have bias to some degree. When dealing with an ideology (such as Objectivism) humans are no different. Objectivists are biased in favor of Objectivist principles/claims and against possible facts or theories opposed to Objectivism. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is just the result of having any sort of personal or institutional philosophy/ideology. The alternative is to evaluate every single issue and fact independantly and without the benefit of a coherent and overarching framework, which is obviously unworkable. Thus I think it is dangerous to think that Objectivists have no bias in this issue. They do, the question is whether it is influencing their objective study of the facts. In this case it may not be. But the danger is there and it is important for anybody studying an issue such as global warming to be aware of all the potential bias of various sources. For example, I often read the New York Times. The paper obviously has a leftist bias in many instances, but because I am aware of that bias I am also able filter the conclusions I draw from what is written there. It would be dangerous to read the Times or any other publication or source without being aware of potential bias, because then you will likely be unable to separate what is objectively true from what might have been influenced by the personal opinions of the source.
  6. I agree. But bias can exist apart from a person's rationality. In fact, bias can influence people on a sub-conscious level at times. Also, we have to assume that most people are not rational all of the time anyway. I agree. The science is key. If somone is predicting harm or wants governmental action but can't back of their claims scientifically, then of course their opinion should be discounted. When I referred to the harms/human causation I was referring to global warming rather than natural/cyclical climate change. I would hold that Objectivists have a bias against a factual finding that humans are causing climate change (aka global warming.)
  7. I guess what I am looking at is the split between research and policy advice. Are we worried that the research is tainted or that the policy advice is wrong? IE, you can have an environmentalist scientist who does good research but gives bad policy advice. This is basically the Dr. Mengele problem. We aren't really doubting whether Mengele can correctly judge that some disease exists in a jewish patient. But we think that his policy choices (jews are valueless) will lead to his giving bad advice on how to treat the patient. Thus it seems in any given situation, the better we are able to separate objective research from policy conclusions, the more weight we can give the research. I think there is the possibility of bias even for those who do not believe nature has an intrinsic value for one reason. This is that in the environmental context, it is more advantagious for this type of person (we can call them non-environmentalists, or Objectivists, etc.) to conclude that global warming (or any other putative harm) doesn't exist than for them to say that the harm does exist. Saying that the harm doesn't exist is essentially the strongest conclusion they have. Not only does it mean that the environmentalists are wrong that there is a harm, but also that the policy choices they advice should be ignored because the underlying harm doesn't exist. It is likewise less advantagious for such a scientist to hold that some environmental harm exists, but that they disagree with the environmentalists as to the solution or policy implications. For example, take global warming. It is better for the Objectivists to say that global warming is a hoax and there is no harm or human cause than for them to say global warming is real but policy choices such as Kyoto, gas taxes, etc are the wrong response to it.
  8. So it is a problem of possible bias? Believing in an intrinsic value of nature doesn't mean you can't do good science, but it might mean you will fabricate research to be consistant with your ideoligical position? Couldn't the same be said of scientists who think nature has no intrinsic value having a bias in favor of fabricating anti-environmentalist research?
  9. That's the truly sad thing. It isn't like this is some random isolated incident. This is the NORM for operating under our government.
  10. This is rather beside the point. If we are talking among a group of Objectivists then yes, they would agree with that. However in the legal world, volition is not seen as an axiomatic prerequisite. Nor is it required to have law. It may be required to have law of a sort an Objectivist would like, however. It is hard to tell prima facia whether those laws are reasonable or not. I think the judgments you are making are more policy concerns than anything else. For example neutering for sexual harrassment is a harsh punishment but that doesn't seem to itself preclude it being reasonable. I would say that it makes the law suspect, but there may be some reason for the harshness of the punishment.
  11. The sad thing about credit cards is that like the lottery, they are generally like a tax on stupidity. There are a few rather sleazy practices credit card companies engage in, but in general, the problems people get into with the credit card companies are based on their own short-sightedness and stupidity. And credit card companies bank big-time on that stupidity, just like the people who run lotteries.
  12. What you are saying here is essentially that being a soldier is always irrational. The type of "foxhole" situations we are talking about here are an inherent risk in being a soldier. Your point is that no rational man would voluntarily choose an option that contained such a risk. Hence no rational man would ever choose to be a soldier. This seems opposed to Ayn Rand's own position, just for starters. Too, it assumes a sort of omniscient knowledge of the future men don't possess. Once the choice is made to join the Army, you have accepted the risks of whatever conflict may occur during your enlistment. Thus you can't reevaluate it at some future point and say "Wait a minute, this war using irrational and suicidal tactics, I think I am going to go to Canada!" Well, that is a strategy if you are a Democrat at least... Again, I don't think this is true because your only reponse to the hypothetical is to say that being a soldier is inherently irrational and thus to remove from the scope of the discussion any issues of rational choice dealing with warfare. Since I think it is entirely possible for a man to make rational choices yet still end up in the "foxhole" situation I think the issue still is worthy of discussion. I could detail the sort of rational choices which would lead to the "foxhole" if you wish. But in short, simply lumping all soldiers into the "irrationality" bucket does not free one from having to decide difficult moral issues dealing with warfare.
  13. That wouldn't seem to rule out influence, however, if not control. A firm or group of investors which is heavily invested in or has the capital to produce essential war goods would easily see how a war would be to their great advantage due to government contracts. These firms (ala Krupp) would not be in a position to control the government, but they would control enough money to be able to contribute heavily to politicians and thus win favor for those who might start a war and then give them vital contracts.
  14. I know that the abolishing of debtor's prison was heralded as a great reform, but was getting rid of it really a good idea? One only has to look at the massive amount of debt (especially unpaid credit card debt) held by Americans to see that many people don't see repayment of debt as a prime obligation. Should we bring back debtor's prison?
  15. This may turn on whether the churches were singled out as polling places or whether they just came up as part of a neutral criteria for selecting such places. (IE, large building open to the public which doesn't cost the government)
  16. You are really just arguing the facts of the hypothetical, which is slightly beside the point. Yes, there might be similar circumstances where a person has different options open to them. But the whole point of the hypothetical is to show that in some situations, there are no such options. You say his priority is to "wait" and that is exactly the point. Waiting implies doing nothing at that moment, and that is the kind of circumstance where being a "foxhole theist" seems attractive. There isn't much point in pleading with God when you are the midst of activity, IE, in a dogfight with an enemy fighter, locked in hand-to-hand combat, etc. But not all human activity is that reliant on second-by-second thoughts having a profound difference in your survival. Sometimes your personal thoughts have almost no impact, as in the trench example I gave. That is where I think people, even atheists, see God as a last hope, maybe even an attractive option. If Objectivism really is a philosophy concerned with reality, then the fact that such a syndrome as "foxhole theism" exists should be taken as an interesting example of human psychology. It can't just be dismissed out-of-hand as not actually occurring, or serving no purpose whatsoever. Whatever you think about the existence of God, that doesn't mean that you can't analyze the belief in God as a psychological tool or crutch in such circumstances.
  17. My post was never a personal attack on your scientific knowledge, I honestly don't understand why you think it was. My point was simple; that Objectivism as a philosophy cannot take a position on the underlying factual and scientific basis for global warming, however individual Objectivists CAN have a valid position to the extent they have knowledge and understanding of the scientific data, analysis and conclusions. Thus if you, for example, as an Objectivist have scientific training to the extent you can analyze and compare different scientific conclusions on global warming, that is perfectly fine. It would be incorrect, however, to say that your personal opinion on the relative validity of those theories is somehow an opinion embedded in Objectivism as a philosophy. I never said Objectivists are incapable of judging the facts of reality. My point was that Objectivists qua Objectivists do not have the specialized knowledge required for analysis of specialized data, specifically scientific data. The same is true of all fields. For instance, I could present you (presumibly a non-lawyer) with a legal question which you lack the knowledge the analyze properly. You may, over time, and through research gain enough knowledge to answer it properly. But simple knowledge of Objectivist principles will itself be unable to solve the problem. My point is exactly that Objectivism qua Objectivism CAN'T have an opinion on the scientific basis of global warming.
  18. The reason they lack that capacity is because they lack scientific training and knowledge. Philosophy has applicability to all other branches of knowledge, however philosophy cannot do the job of all those branches of knowledge either. For example, you can't expect a philosopher to be able to do the job of a medical doctor, or an engineer, or an economist, or an accountant, or a lawyer, or a scientist. Philosophers lack the specialized training. Philosophers can provide guidance and input to these fields as this guidance pertains to philosophy. However, they cannot usurp the different field's own expertise. This is why Objectivism has a valid opinion on global warming only to the extent that the individual Objectivist in question has scientific knowledge. Only such a person can adequately evaluate competing theories, analyze different fact-patterns, and draw the proper conclusions. This doesn't mean that non-scientists can't have opinions about science. However their opinions are only valid to either the extent of their own knowledge or their reliance on a more knowledgable source.
  19. As I said above, philosophy can provide guidance on epistemology, and to a lesser extent scientific methods. But what philosophy cannot do is engage in analysis of scientific data to arrive at conclusions. At best, a philosopher can try to analyze the relative validity of two scientific conclusions, although to do so the philosopher must also have a good knowledge of the data and methods (IE be a scientist). Nothing prohibits Objectivists from doing this, but in doing so their conclusions on global warming cannot be an explicit position of the Objectivist philosophy. They are simply conclusions of individuals. I will have to find the blog discussion that was posted earlier (I think by GreedyCapitalist) which contained a good reference to a supposedly-objectivist position. As to my personal view, I do think that there is warming/climate change but I don't think there has yet been good evidence that mankind is responsible for it.
  20. I am not sure what the question is. How can a law be unreasonable if it is based on all the proper reasonable prerequisites?
  21. As I said, rationality isn't abandoned by the "foxhole theist" situation. There are some choices that need to be made. The problem is that once these baseline choices are made "Do I stay or do I flee," or "Do I follow my superiors or shoot them?" you likely to be left in a "hurry up and wait" type situation where you have nothing to do and no choices to make. This is where the foxhole theist idea comes up. As I said, those choices have already been made. By choosing to stay in the trench he has essentially chosen to sit and wait there through the shelling with absolutely no influence over whether or not the shelling kills him. At this point, further rational choices are minimal and have little or no effect on his survival. I could not disagree with this more. See Dismuke's post.
  22. Well, since my first question was sent to the trash can (I am not sure if it was by you or not) I will ask it again: Exactly how do you know this? Remember, we are talking about situations (specifically in warfare) where a person's choices are limited in such a way that rational decision-making largely does not affect their survival. The best example I can think of is of a soldier in a trench who is being shelled by the enemy. He can't run away, he can't stop the enemy from firing the shells. He has to crouch down in the trench, essentially motionless, and wait for either for some order to come from above or simply for a shell to hit close enough to injure or kill him. Of what use is reason in determining his survival in this context? Not much, for sure. Certainly there is a level of rationality which need apply, IE he can't go completely insane and start running around firing his rifle in the air or go out of the trench where it is less safe. But my point is that, especially in war, you sometimes have situations where you have choices to make which affect your survival, but beyond those minimal choices you have no meaningful capacity to change your fate. This is where the "foxhole theist" issue comes up even with normally rational, athiest men. God is essentially acting as the "ace in the hole" which is turned to only once all other options have failed. Certainly the "foxhole theist" doesn't really count on God to magically change reality and "part the Red Sea" so-to-speak, but as a psychological tool I think said syndrome may be valuable to some men.
  23. What difference does this make? What if we fought an "all out war" in Vietnam and caused a nuclear exchange between the US and the USSR? I wouldn't say Giap is the greatest military leader of all time, but whether he was or not doesn't seem to depend on what the other side might have done but was restrained from doing.
  24. I still don't see how it is a philosophical issue. Philosophy isn't in the business of deciding factual disputes, that just isn't its purpose. Philosophy can give guidance on epistemological methods as applied to scientific discovery, or to the implications of scientific facts to philosophic issues. But Objectivism, nor any philosophy can't go "mano a mano" with scientists over an issue like global warming. Obviously there are environmentalists out there who want to control society regardless of facts. However, most of the scientists I have met personally don't operate with this point of view. They try to determine the facts, and then draw conclusions from them. To say global warming is a hoax is to say all of this class of scientist is either delusional or else incompetent. This may be true or not, but even this determination seems beyond the scope of philosophy and of Objectivism in particular, except to the extent that Objectivists are also scientists. Again, I am not a proponent of the (human) global warming theory. I simply think this is an issue which Objectivism as a philosophy is unable to address as a philosophy. Objectivists can certainly have a position on it, but the validity of their position would seem to track their ability to evaluate scientific data and methods (ie their scientific knowledge) rather than their knowledge of Objectivism.
  25. I think you have misunderstood my point. I am not debating whether Germany is as morally blameworthy as Iran in terms of facilitating terrorism. What I am trying to figure out is how you plan to define "defensive" vs. "offensive" military action. The reason I brought up Berlin was not in the context of whether or not nuking Germany qua Germany is moral, but whether it is "defensive" to nuke three terrorists who just happen to be located in Berlin, such that the fallout and explosion of the bomb will kill millions of German civilians. The same is of course true in nuking Tehran, based on how I interpret your moral framework. If military action in response to a percieved threat to the US is always defensive, and defensive military action is always moral, then nuking Berlin is just as moral as nuking Tehran. The only difference is the number of innocent bystanders turned to cinders.
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