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themadkat

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Posts posted by themadkat

  1. Hi liberal,

    Your understanding of biology and animal behavior is deeply flawed. There is no "for the good of the species". To the extent that social animals come together (in the so-called "higher" groupings at least, such as mammals), they only do so insofar as it is in their individual interests. The old idea of group selection, where individuals sacrifice to keep the species going, has been dead since the sixties. There may be some group selectionary forces at work in certain instances, but they happen under very specific conditions that we can model - there's nothing magic about it.

    Take your lion example. Yes, lions have evolved to be social, since the ancestral behavior in cats is to be solitary. But they do not behave "for the good of the group". Their hunts are not even coordinated as a wolf pack's might be, and some individuals "cheat" - that is, they hang back and do less work, but still eat at the kill. So in reality, this group that you hold up as cohesive actually has an undercurrent of exploitation running through it. Isn't nature a bitch?

    To the extent that lionesses in a pride actually do cooperate (and remember that the backbone of a pride is the lionesses - males come and go), it is because they are all closely related to each other - mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins. Kin selection can be powerful, but again there's nothing magic about it. It's a matter of getting your genes out there in the next generation - there is no rule that your genes have to come from YOU. Coming from your sister is just as good, or more specifically it's exactly half as good over the whole genome.

    I promise you that you will not find any basis for your political views in evolutionary biology or, for that matter, in anthropology. You're welcome to try.

    Kat

    Thirdly, the advancement of humanity has not been primarily related to the individual keeping what they earn themselves but in the broad distribution of resources among its population, regardless of an individual members' direct participation in their acquisition. The gathering of individuals of a species into permanent groups enhanced the survival of the individuals as well as the species and for that to happen, competition between individuals of a species had to be reduced and cooperation increased and cultivated. If only those can who obtain resources by their own effort are entitled to keep all of those resources and are not obligated or refuse to share with a group of other members of their species, that group breaks down and is no longer a group species but a solitary one. In a group species, resources are obtained to advance the group. In a solitary species, resources, excepting pre-natal exchange, advance only the individual. Group species' or species that gather or organize in permanent clusters have more survival value for both the individual and the group.

    Notice that a pride of lions is far stronger than a bear because the lions cooperate as a group and the bear does not. That is because the individual lions within a pride have largely overcome their instinct for competition between each other over territory whereas the bear has not. So, this effects the bears' ability to cooperate in groups and therefore its ability to defend itself successfully against a pride of lions who can cooperate for defense. Also notice that the hyena, much smaller than most bears, because of its more advanced group cooperation, is able to challenge and harass lions on the plains.

    The underlying principle behind all this is: Competition, in any form, is a danger to the survival of the competitors. Today's advanced economic "competition" or free market is not a form of cooperation, it is the leftover territorial aggressiveness over natural resources.

  2. Look, we know things happen behind the scenes, and we have to deal with people we would rather not have to deal with, but it has to be done. Diplomacy is like making hot dogs, you don't really want to see it done.

    I'm not trying to pick on you here, but isn't this pretty much the DEFINITION of evasion? Isn't it exactly the responsibility of every citizen to understand, at least on a broad level, what their government is doing, ESPECIALLY if they intend to lend their support to that action? Because at the end of the day, all of us are responsible for the actions of our government. Isn't that our justification for killing people overseas who have never attacked us - that they are responsible for the government they have allowed to be in power? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Whether we ultimately choose to support or oppose our government's actions we have to do it with eyes open. If you advocate for some outcome, you necessarily advocate every step that occurs in bringing about that outcome.

    I'm not sure where I stand on the Wikileaks issue yet. Manning is probably a criminal according to the UCMJ. That's for the Army to figure out. As for Assange and Wikileaks, I can't see that they're doing anything wrong, but if it could be proven that their information has harmed Americans or American collaborators in the field I might change my mind. I think that what I said above should apply regardless of where you stand on these issues.

    I guess I don't believe I should be eating hot dogs when I'm not fully aware of how they're made, sawdust and pig anus be damned.

  3. Great effort, but it's unfortunate for these kids that people still believe that long-distance running is healthy, or good for the heart. The evidence points to the contrary (1, 2).

    It's probably true that insane amounts of cardio is not good for you, but cross-country races are not really comparable to marathons. 3.1 <<< 26.

  4. Curiouser and curiouser...

    So my mother and sister just flew out to San Diego and back and did NOT have to go through either the full-body scanners or the invasive pat-down. They each just went through the normal metal detector and had their hands swabbed (presumably for explosives).

    Apparently at certain airports they are NOT making everyone go through the enhanced screening, only certain people at random. This is, to me, definitive proof of security theater. I am glad my mom and sister were spared the humiliation.

  5. A very smart move to go after the American sense of life in this way. Not something expected from a disintegrated or pragmatic leftist, or anyone caring about their own political popularity (as in contrast to possible long term gain for the "movement").

    I will be flying next month. I refuse to go through the scanners. Guess that means I'm going to be groped. I am really, REALLY wishing I was not about to fly, because I get freaked out by strangers touching me. On the other hand, I have to be damn careful not to get myself on a no-fly list somehow which basically gives government the arbitrary power to destroy certain types of careers which depend on travel by air.

    This completely sucks.

  6. It is, but that doesn't mean that animals never understand private property. Charles Cornish wrote a book "Animals of today, their life and conversation" where he shows examples of dogs respecting property rights. A quick Google search of "animals understand property" yields several instances that shows a rudimentary concept of property rights in animals.

    Are you equating "understanding property" with territoriality?

  7. Actually, animals most emphatically do NOT understand private property. In certain macaque groups (a kind of monkey), dominant individuals will take food or other resources away from submissive individuals by force. This actually discourages the discovery of extra food, because the submissive individuals have anything they "produce" (by procuring it from the environment, sometimes at considerable effort) stolen from them, and the dominant individuals don't need to do that extra work when they can just take whatever they want.

    I think it's an extremely good natural example of what happens when private property rights are NOT respected.

    Also on an interesting note, submissive individuals become very good at figuring out how to hide from dominant individuals and procure/consume in secret. But of course this severely limits their activity. They even figure out how to sneak matings out of the sight of dominant individuals.

    This is a great question. I think Capitalism as a system of private property predates humanity. Animals understand private property within a pack and even sometimes value their creation.

  8. So you are implying that we [C and D] are initiating force against the socialists [A and B].

    I don't agree with JeffS, but I do want to point out that this is not what he is arguing. He is not implying that C is initiating force against A and B in recovering her property, he is saying that C is initiating force against D in recovering her property even though D didn't do anything or take any money from C at all. That is the argument here. He is offering no defense of A or B's mooching. He's saying that to go on benefits from the government is initiating force against victimized producers, not the leeches. All are agreed that their actions are wrong.

  9. And here again, you fuzz the line between history (observed outcomes across a statistically relevant sample), and future (relative probabilities of future outcomes). If you are saying that past statistics are a decent approximate predictor of future outcomes that we have in the absence of any other information, I agree; if you assume that past outcomes are a definitive predictor of future outcomes, then you are reading too much into statistical correlations.

    ...

    There are enough questionable cases of half-baked forward "reasoning" based on past statistics that if I can't see the "why" behind the statistics, then I don't take them as predictive.

    - ico

    I'm only going to reiterate this one more time: we DO know the direct causal mechanisms in many cases. Some very well-documented causal processes still act probabilistically. You virtually ignored my half-life example. We KNOW that carbon 14 has a half-life of 5730 years. Are you implying that could change at some future date? It won't. When carbon 14 acts according to its nature it decays at a rate of half gone every 5730 years, period, end of story.

    I agree with you that medicine needs to be more individualized. However, in some respects people are people, and poison is poison. If you take cyanide in sufficient quantity you WILL die. It sounds like you want to argue something like "asbestos doesn't cause lung cancer simply because every single person ever exposed to asbestos didn't get lung cancer". That's ridiculous. How many of those people with lung cancer would have it if they weren't exposed to asbestos fibers? This correlation is not an artifact of the statistical analysis. Rather, we KNOW the nature of asbestos fibers and their interaction with lung tissue.

    I still say that you are on the verge of radical skepticism here, but I'm not going to repeat myself anymore.

  10. The fallacy of using past statistics to argue future outcomes, i.e., without understanding WHY the statistics come out as they do, and without having a model of the future that predicts the statistics (out of sample fit) is rampant and wrong. Keep it up, and I will keep shooting it down.

    - ico

    You are missing the point. In the particular case of cigarettes (and by no means ONLY in this particular case), we DO understand why the statistics come out as they do. We can identify the particular chemicals involved, and we know what they do. Do you deny that particular chemicals act according to their natures?

    Just because a particular phenomenon behaves probabilistically does not mean it isn't predictable. I agree that correlation is not a substitute for causation but in this case we DO know causal mechanisms.

    Radioactive decay occurs probabilistically. Does that mean we can't know half-life?

  11. Okay, let me say it again: statistics do NOT determine the FUTURE odds -- unless you assume that the future is going to be the same as the past. Which is naive at best.

    - ico

    I feel compelled to point out that you're coming very close to denying the validity of induction here. It was Hume's argument that induction was not reliable unless you "assume" the future is like the past.

    As to cigarettes, cigarettes contain many chemicals, the effects of which are known and intimately quantified, with LD50s and everything. So we're not "merely" talking statistics here. If you didn't believe cigarettes had an effect on your body, you wouldn't use them. Why are you accepting the causality of certain effects of cigarettes but not others?

    Also it's ridiculous to say that people don't do things that are damaging with no positive effect on balance. It's called addiction. It sounds like you're rationalizing yours.

  12. Say, that's really something. It's intense, but I think I like it.

    My new ink - it's half-way done and still needs the coloring.... I'm loving it so far!!!!

    Its a tear-away of the skin to reveal the flag underneath. It was just done last night so a lot of the redness is agitation. When it heals up, I'm going back for the coloring.

    I realize some folks won't like it, probably think its hideous.... nevertheless, I thought on this one for a long time before doing it.

    76099_452783086747_592326747_5527860_3715614_n.jpg

  13. I think you would have more of a point if the anti-(gay) rights people were making these arguments. But this is never what I hear them railing about. It's always about religion and "protecting the cheeldren" from those horrible queers.

    You do make an excellent point generally about the shitty situation that all small businesses find themselves in and how government policies actually end up promoting discrimination based on nonessential characteristics. I also think this points to a problem with policies regarding marriage generally. Why should a husband or wife automatically be along for the ride on their spouse's benefits, especially in an age where more often than not both spouses work? It's one thing if the employee were paying for their own insurance, etc. but as you pointed out, they aren't.

    While obviously acting on principles is ideal I can see where many people who are against "progressivism" in general would start to swing more anti "gay rights".

    With all the fear of Obamacare costs to business I can see why anyone who is pro business would be against gay marriage or even civil unions for that matter.

    Say I have a gay employee.. soon I may be forced to buy them health insurance.

    Well... I can calculate that cost. I can work it into my business plan.

    Add marriage and civil unions to the mix.

    That gay employee gets hitched. Ok.. I'm providing for two.

    But wait! Under the new healthcare people are now "children" until they are 26 and must be provided with insurance until they are 26.

    Lets say gay employee marries someone who has 3 children ages 4, 9 and 12.

    For a smaller business or a low margin business we're talking going out of business here.

    With teenage pregnancy in the mix what if the 12 year old has a kid in 3 years I have to buy insurance for?

    Business owners really no longer have any way of calculating their costs in this.

    Now, the argument may go that you'd have to provide the same for straight employees and you'd be correct. But staring down the barrel of all these costs I can see the logic in trying to find any reason to exclude any one you can.

    While I have always been generally inclined to resent people who are against equal treatment for gays I have to see this issue from the other side.

  14. Why is it relevant whether they could afford the legal fees? I doubt there even are any fees for defending one's case when sued.

    I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. The costs of defending yourself in court are huge. This is one reason that even the threat of legal action allows large organizations with tons of resources at their disposal to intimidate people who haven't necessarily done anything wrong; the big guys can drag proceedings out forever. Of course, if you WIN your court case, then you can hold the plaintiff liable for your fees, but that could take years, and in the meanwhile you are being bled dry by lawyer and court costs and might even go bankrupt in the process. So yes, being sued is a nightmare even if you are completely innocent unless you can prove that fact in court FAST. And Reason help you if you're up in court against the government...then you're REALLY screwed.

  15. "Give it All" by Rise Against:

    "

    Break through the undertow, your hands I can't seem to find,

    Pollution burns my tongue, cough words I can't speak so I

    Stop my struggling, then I float to the surface,

    Fill my lungs with air, then let it out

    I give it all, now there's a reason why I sing,

    So give it all, and it's these reasons that belong to me

    Rock bottoms where we live, and still we dig these trenches,

    To bury ourselves in them, backs breaking under tension

    For far too long these voices, muffled by distances,

    It's time to come to our senses, up from the dirt

    We give it all, now there's a reason why I sing,

    So give it all, and it's these reasons that belong to me

    Breathe (breathe), the air we give (give), the life we live (live), our pulses racing distances,

    (breathe) so wet my tongue (give), break into song (live), through seas of competition

    So please believe your eyes, a sacrifice,

    Is not what we had in our minds,

    I'm coming home tonight, home tonight

    We give it all, now there's a reason why I sing,

    So give it all, and it's these reasons that belong to me

    Today I offer all myself to this I'm living for my dying wish,

    I give it all, now there's a reason, there's a reason, to give it all"

  16. You're right, philosophically, but not legally. The structure of government as a means of expressing the constitutionally limited desire of a voting majority.

    These flawed legal systems actually provide what liberty we have, and my premise is that this decisions harms liberty more than helps it. That the ruling is in favor, pragmatically, of liberty, doesn't justify the way it contravenes the institutional checks that ultimately preserve liberty by upholding a rational process for creating objective and transparent laws.

    You're putting the cart before the horse. The ruling serves the interest of individual rights and liberty on principle, not pragmatically. Preserving "the structure" of a society whether it respects individual rights or not is true pragmatism. Remember that the system is good ONLY insofar as it serves individual interests qua each person, not some aggregate of the majority of individuals' whims.

  17. I'm curious how the following email by Harriman to the Hsieh's affects your opinion of the thickness of his skin, particularly what's in bold:

    Hi Brian. I'm glad you brought that up. I actually have already seen that e-mail but it's good to put it in the post to give context. That really doesn't change my opinion on the thickness of Harriman's skin one way or the other...I still don't have an opinion. The only thing it makes me wonder about is why he feels the need to trace the purported source of McCaskey's argument back to "academic philosophers" like Paul Feyerabend (who, by the way, whatever his other faults may be had some great criticisms of the logical positivists). It makes it seem as if he is trying to discredit McCaskey's criticism by pointing to its supposed source rather than tackling the substance of the criticism which is, again, all that ought to matter. I think this is a somewhat bad habit in Oist circles, of trying to show that an idea is corrupt because of its supposed root. It can be useful to put ideas in context and I admit to having profited greatly from a basic knowledge of the history of ideas, much gleaned from Rand in fact. But that doesn't change the truth that a wrong idea is wrong, regardless of its source, and if it can be shown to be wrong it doesn't matter where it came from. I would prefer to see Harriman address the substance of McCaskey's critique, because I'm not satisfied that he did. Then again, it may not be his priority to do so, and that's his business.

    As to whether scientists grope around in the dark, to some extent we do. Hopefully not often, and hopefully not as a primary way to come up with hypotheses, but we do it. I say this as a scientist myself. I can really only speak to the life sciences, which is my perspective. Coming up with a viable hypothesis worth testing is tough and sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places. As long as you have some reason to think it will work (this is the important part that a lot of scientists forget, and that's where they get out-and-out fanciful), you go for it. Like I said, you don't do it as a rule and you try your best to build your hypotheses on solid preexisting data, but sometimes you really do have to guess around at first. That's where you get the information you can use in further integrations. There is probably a bit of luck involved, though not much. You can find ways to put yourself in positions to "make your own luck", if you understand my meaning.

    Sophia, I understand where you're coming from, but the truth is I really do mean thick skin in the conventional sense. It may not be right or ideal but that is how modern academia is run. You will often be attacked if you come up with anything the slightest bit substantive, especially in my field, and those attacks may even be unfair or mean-spirited, especially if they're from a senior researcher in the field who feels untouchable. You have to be able to brush it off and stick to your guns, knowing that it's not about feelings, it's about finding the facts. Some grad students have been reduced to tears and some researchers have nearly come to blows at conferences. I'm sorry but if you can't control yourself like that you have no business in academia no matter how smart you are. If I ever cried at a conference or even came anywhere close to losing composure like that I hope my advisor throws me out on my ass.

  18. I don't post terribly much and I ought to know better than to post in a topic like this, but if I get flamed for this, so be it.

    This sort of feuding going on is exactly the sort of reason why Objectivism hasn't been and by all indications won't be widely accepted in academia any time soon. I am seeing entirely too many posts that seem to endorse what Harriman is saying simply because it is Harriman and he is endorsed by Peikoff. All that should be important is the merits of the work itself, regardless of who wrote it or who likes it. If you like The Logical Leap because you think it is a legitimately great book, fantastic. Maybe it is a great book. I haven't read it.

    What really bothers me is the idea that something coming out of an Objectivist scholar is somehow above or outside criticism. This is exactly the opposite of how academia works. When you put a work out there, you need to expect it to be attacked and contested from every angle (sometimes even unfairly!). You're prepared for it, you're strong enough to take it, and you certainly don't get insulted by it. The essence of academia is thick skin and many folks in ARI circles, most especially Mr. Peikoff, don't seem to have it. I don't have any reason to attribute this trait to Mr. Harriman, not from the evidence I've seen anyhow. Maybe he does have the greatest advance in inductive reasoning ever. I hope he does. If that's the case, his work will stand on its own merits against ALL comers, much as a work like Atlas Shrugged does.

    I would like to see more serious discussion of Objectivism in academia, and in fact I try to introduce that into my own discourse with students and colleagues as appropriate. My hat is off to scholars like Tara Smith who are wrangling with the academic system and all it entails. In order to do good work, though, you've got to get rid of any shred of argument from authority or experience, and it seems to me Peikoff has taken something personally here, though I have no idea why he should.

    The best thing to do in this whole debate is take all the names away. Nullius in verba. Forget who said what and focus only on WHAT is said, then check that against reality. In the end, reality is the final arbiter of everything. It is also fruitful to consider what Sophia said above - Objectivism is ONLY the work of Rand herself. No one else, not Peikoff or anybody, is writing more Objectivism. But that's OK. The point is to get at reality here, not to try to piggyback off of the monumental achievements of Rand.

  19. I should start by saying that I am an anthropologist, and anthropology and sociology are traditionally antagonistic fields for some bizarre reason (even though they have a lot in common). My office-mate once described sociology as "the science of handing white people surveys", and it is certainly the case that much sociology is done this way.

    That said, although I have many problems with the way sociology is practiced and structured, to say it is an illegitimate field of study is going way too far. You might as well say that all of the social sciences are illegitimate (I know some Objectivists believe this, but I hope it is not the majority). Sociology is most valuable for the level of analysis at which it operates. It is worthwhile looking at trends at the level of society, as well as looking at individual behaviors in the context of the society in which they occur. After all, even completely rational, independent actors have their decisions structured by the society in which they live, BECAUSE they are rational. In other words, the state of society makes some decisions pay over others, such that rational people will make those particular choices for identifiable reasons. Otherwise, those choices might not make sense and people may appear to be acting irrationally when they are really just acting as rationally as they can in a given context (for those of you familiar with jargon you might detect me taking an agency standpoint here, that is certainly my theoretical orientation of choice).

    I also believe that some sociologists have made valuable contributions. For example, I think it was Derek N who said he had read Weber and Durkheim and that was part of the reason he had a negative view of sociology. I admit not having read them extensively, but from what I do know of them, what was so bad about them? Durkheim's theory of mechanical vs. organic solidarity seems to make a lot of sense to me and account successfully for social cohesiveness in a modern, differentiated society where people tend to specialize their interests. As for Weber, his definition of the state is so similar to Rand's that I wonder if she didn't read him at some point and build on some of his ideas. The main difference between Weber's definition and Rand's is that Weber's is descriptive while Rand's is normative, but the language is nearly identical and Weber's came first.

    Writing off whole fields of study because they aren't currently done well = fail.

  20. Sorry if this offends, but I have a question.

    Isn't asexuality implicative of neutrality?

    Maybe not, I'm smart enough to know of the invasive and otherwise bizarre nature of the sexual act, and that it's consequences can be more than uncomfortable physically.

    Still, if you are truly emotionally intimate with someone, then much of that psychologically would be mitigated.

    A neutral stance on sex would permit it from time to time at least for the joy it causes the other partner, and the symbolic intimacy.

    It seems like a strong aversion to sex is not asexuality, but something else. This is the difference between no interest and not interested.

    I don't think this is necessarily true. You can't put having sex in the same category as doing the laundry. If sex is truly not a value to you (and especially in a woman where it's really important your body be somewhat ready for it), it could actually be very uncomfortable and/or painful to engage in it. I mean hell, sex can be uncomfortable even in the BEST of circumstances. I currently am nursing some injuries right now which can make sex downright painful, but I go through it anyway not only because I love my partner but more importantly because, let's just say my sex drive is the exact opposite of the OP :) If I didn't have a crazy, overdriven sex drive I probably wouldn't bother to deal with that considerable pain in my hip and back, etc. Even in a healthy woman who wants sex sometimes your body is just NOT on board with your intentions and in that instance as well, sex can be quite uncomfortable.

    By the way, this may be neither here nor there but when you (OP) mentioned your bf continually demanding sex when it causes you to shake, cry, and freak out, that sounds more than a bit abusive to me. It sounds like a stone's throw from rape, to be honest.

  21. You responded while I was typing up the other response.

    I am not exactly even sure if a lover's eye wandering would really be a worth a reaction, since there is not necessarily any decrease of valuing on their end. I guess I can't recall a time I have been jealous, so that example is way too abstract for me. I understand what you're saying about the potential of losing a high value, but to me that would only indicate desperation to hold on to something you aren't worthy of such as an inheritance, or desperation to hold onto something that should not matter such as fame. I would even suggest the mentality of both reactions to jealousy you gave are improper. Not that the first reaction is exactly destructive, but it changes the focus from what sort of person you are to what other people evaluate you to be.

    Generally speaking, maintaining your values requires effort. Sometimes depending on what is going on it requires more effort and focus than others. How does wanting to retain a high value indicate desperation? Also, as far as changing the focus, we're not just talking about "other people"...we're talking about someone you've already decided is important to you, presumptively for rational reasons. Clearly it should not matter what "people" think of you, but what about a trusted friend, a teacher, a partner? If you respect their judgment it's one of the things you take into account when you make choices...you don't substitute it for your own, but you still consider it.

    Don't get me wrong, not all jealousy is good. It depends on context, as does everything else. But you asked if it is EVER a proper response, and I don't see why not.

    Let's take it out of the romantic context. You are the star running back and the coach suddenly starts putting the ball in the hands of some young upstart. Suddenly everyone's talking about him, not you, and he's the one in the position to win the big games. That praise and attention used to be yours, justly, because of your skills and talents. The irrational response would be to cut him down, piss in his cereal or something. Instead, that jealousy ought to drive you to suck it up and do better. You think that's YOUR glory out there? OK, then, prove it, go out and take it. If you felt absolutely nothing when this guy came out of nowhere and stole your scene I'd question how much you really cared about being the star in the first place. He took something from you. But if you want it back, you have to get it the right way.

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