Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Posts posted by Jake_Ellison

  1. Where exactly in the Constitution does it state that laws cannot single out a religious practice or religious doctrine? I only see this:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

    You just quoted it. Allowing some religions to be considered in Court, while banning others, is an obvious violation of the Establishment Clause.

  2. By "prohibited," they are obviously not referring to U.S. law, as that is certainly prohibited. The judge is referring to Sharia law, and on this basis he found that sexual assault or criminal sexual conduct had not been proven. Yes, it was overturned, and Oklahoma is a long way from New Jersey politically, but the removal of this amendment would make it possible for a judge to rule like this in Oklahoma.

    The existence of this law would not make it any less impossible for a judge to rule the same exact way. And even if it did (which it doesn't), that would not justify a law that singles out a religion over others, in violation of the Constitution.

  3. I don't know, but the regular civil code is the only law of the land to be enforced by the state. Men who beat their wives or daughters near to death should get hauled off to jail without any religious excuses.

    It's not true that throwing this referendum out would mean men will get to beat their wives or daughters without being punished, in Oklahoma. What are you basing that claim on?

  4. Monsanto is imposing a cost upon the farmer against the farmer's consent, because the farmer ordinarily saves seed to plant the next season's crop instead of buying them. This is an initiation of force.

    If farmers were allowed to just use any seeds that resulted from any accidental contamination, in any way they see fit, that would effectively remove the control Monsanto has of their intellectual property.

    They can't stop the wind and the bees, that is a naturally occurring phenomenon. The role of the Courts is to prevent both sides from exploiting it. Having the farmers keep the harvest, but not allowing them to further use the strain for free, is an acceptable solution.

    It's not true that this means farmers have something stolen from them by Monsanto, or that they are forced to buy the seeds from them. They can simply sell the Monsanto crops they harvested, and use the money to buy non-Monsanto seeds from a neighbor. It's an inevitable inconvenience for the farmers (and for Monsanto too), but it's not initiation of force by either side.

    As for the legal costs, once the precedents have been set, there is no reason for farmers who can't afford to pay for their own lawyers to challenge them. They can just respect the precedent, and not re-seed the Monsanto crops.

  5. I don't know what "international law" they're referring to. They most certainly can't outlaw treaties and agreements the federal government commits to. As per Article Six of the Const., those supersede local legislation.

    As for the Sharia thing, they're most definitely not allowed to single out a single religion, in their legislation. That's an obvious violation of the First Amendment. They could of course ban all religions from consideration, but that would for instance also involve banning the Christian definition of marriage, and giving the "activist" judges they so dread another excellent tool in support of gay marriage.

  6. But first, consider the fact that a child born to intelligent parents immediately has an advantage over a child born to unintelligent parents which is best described as luck.

    Luck exists, but that's not an example of it. Like OCSL said, the fact that our parents had us was their decision, not luck.

    Luck is having an event that you knew had only a certain probability of occurring, happen, and benefit you. I think its role in our lives is overblown though (partly because people assign events that aren't lucky at all, to luck). The chances of someone being consistently lucky are very small.

    More often than not, successful people are not actually lucky, they just have better knowledge of the probabilities of future events, and therefor their choices seem lucky to those who don't have that knowledge, but in fact aren't. Take for instance a card counter at a blackjack table: he's not winning because of luck, but everyone thinks he is. And, unless you know how to count cards yourself, you'll never be able to tell if any player is winning out of luck or if he's a really good card counter, except based on the results. That's how they get caught: not because the casino security went to MIT, but because they know that even though the odds of winning a single hand are very close to 50% (between 49 and 50) no one is lucky enough to come out on top over a long period of time, by playing those odds.

  7. So when someone tells me that it wasn't luck that lead them to discover Objectivism early in life, then they must be wrong. I can't think of what I might have done wrong to delay my discovery of Objectivism until my early twenties, so what could they have done right that would have lead to their early success?

    They were either more curious about Politics and Economics than you were, or they were more avid readers, to the point that they were willing to read a thousand page novel just because it came highly recommended. Either way, I don't see what luck has to do with discovering and reading a great, widely published bestseller (Atlas Shrugged), or learning about a prominent figure of the American Right (Ayn Rand). She's probably been mentioned on every political talk show that ever existed, in the past five decades.

    Of course, if we were talking about some obscure book or author almost no one heard of, then those who stumble across it are not just smart and hard working, they are also lucky. But to find a book constantly near the top of bestseller lists and in the public eye, all you need is curiosity and rationality. You can have the worst luck in the world, and still end up coming across it, if you search for answers hard enough, and are smart enough to recognize its value from other people's reviews (even from certain people's insults).

  8. Taking an act that will almost certainly kill one's self could still be moral, if by doing so, one achieves a great deal. What if one can save not only the life of a loved one, but many people whom one values? If the act of saving those people defends values which are proper according to the standard of man's life, then one may value this over the almost total shortening of the duration of one's life. I see the principle here as the same as in the first two examples, but taken to the highest extreme.

    I think I see where you're coming from here. If a man, when realizing his life, lived by his own values, is over anyway, decides to end it on his own terms rather than prolong it in a way that isn't his chosen life anymore, that is a life affirming choice, based on one's values, aimed at capping off an entire existence by making the last few minutes noble.

    He chooses this instead of the alternative: making the last few years painful and worthless at the expense of those last few minutes spent pursuing his values, and at the expense of having spent his entire life (shortened as it is) in accordance with rational principles.

    Committing suicide because one cannot achieve values--such as in a totalitarian society--is different. I might agree that this is an action outside the realm of morality. In that case, there is no higher value being achieved--death is the goal.

    That death is also chosen based on one's values (his love of freedom), just like dying for the sake of a loved one. It's just different values, but the issue is the same. I've now turned around and accepted that they are both moral choices, though.

  9. No. Statistical measurements are of the past; they don't predict the future.

    You shouldn't be using 'predict the future' and 'determine probabilities' interchangeably. No, Statistics doesn't predict the future. And I wasn't predicting your future either, I was giving you your odds of dying because of your habit.

    Predicting the future would mean telling you that you are going to die from it. That is what you did, by the way (you predicted that smoking will take 5-10 years off the end of your life), and that's what started this discussion.

    Easy exception in this case: what if someone develops a cure for whatever ailments cigarettes do cause me, and I avail myself of that cure, before chemical process irreversibility has set into my body? This is not so farfetched, is it?

    It is wrong to assume cures for ailments caused by smoking are more likely to be developed than cures for other ailments. So that possibility doesn't affect the odds of you dying because of smoking in any way.

    Sure, it could happen. But there is a very significant chance that it won't. That's not a prediction, it is a factual statement about our current knowledge. All (mathematically sound) estimates of the probabilities of future events are.

    I had an ear infection that I might have died from 1000 years ago, but it was easy to deal with today. Otherwise, I might think ear wax was a deadly scourge.


    That's not context, that's a false analogy.

  10. I am quite confident that getting drunk or high will make it difficult or impossible to focus, that is, be capable of applying your mind or having a clear purpose (as well as be able to deal as effectively as possible with reality, which is also vitally important). Rationality requires a clear mind; rationality is the fundamental requirement of a human life, therefore, a clear mind is a fundamental requirement of a human life. As a consequence, getting drunk or high is immoral. By this I mean it hurts your life.

    I have two separate points, one regarding the actual argument, the other the Objectivist position on the issue. I'm interested in both, but they are two separate issues, so I'll address them one at a time:

    1. I believe you that you're quite confident of all that, but you can't conclude something hurts my life without explaining how exactly it hurts my life. That "therefore" in the middle sound like an inference, but it's not really, your premise is the same statement as your conclusion, just phrased differently. So, what's your actual argument? How does the occasional buzz, at times when I have made sure I won't be required to work or make important decisions, hurt my life? Are you alleging it permanently affects my mind and rationality?

    2. Your statements are not an accurate characterization of Objectivism, and the two quotes certainly don't amount to what you are saying. There is a significant difference between having a buzz and what Ayn Rand is talking about in the quote (an unconscious mind, in fact she's probably talking about a permanently unconscious mind). Just because someone has a buzz, that does not make them unconscious or unaware of reality. No one here is saying that drinking oneself into unconsciousness is fine.

    Do you have a quote of Ayn Rand addressing the specific issue of relaxing one's mind, with alcohol (which I know she did), as opposed to drinking until you're unconscious? I don't, but I do remember Dr. Peikoff talk about it, and say that it is perfectly acceptable. No one can be fully focused at all time, we all need rest beyond just the time we spend sleeping, and he found nothing wrong with people who choose to relax with the help of a substance, because they find it easier and more enjoyable.

    Intentionally fogging up your mind is necessarily dangerous. One should always be able to deal with any situation that might arise, which requires a clear head. Fogging up your mind is necessarily dangerous.

    Deal with what? Ze Germans?

  11. Wrong. Past statistics do not determine future probabilities.

    Where are you getting this from? Of course they do, that's the only reason why anyone does statistical analysis.

    Also, you conveniently ignore the potential benefits of smoking. If it was just poisonous, with no benefit, no one would ever do it.

    No one ever does anything that's poisonous and without benefit? That's not a very sound premise for your inference there.

  12. This is a perfect example of the fallacy of using statistics in individual cases.

    No, it's not. I am applying the statistical evidence to a random smoker's chances of survival correctly, after you mis-applied them in your previous post to conclude smoking will take 5-10 years off your life.

    In the context of my knowledge about you (all I know is that you are a middle aged smoker), that is the accurate estimation of your chances of dying from it. If I was your doctor and had some more facts (about your medical condition, history of illness in your family, etc.) I could maybe give you a more accurate estimate. (meaning that 50% chance that you'll die because of your smoking, instead of some other cause, would either go up or down to some extent - I doubt it could ever, given our current medical knowledge, go down enough to allow someone to rationally choose long term smoking)

    But, based on my current knowledge about you, that 0.5 is an accurate number for the probability of you dying from smoking, and so are all the other figures. Can you present any evidence to suggest your chances of survival are better than that?

    Can you say that cigarettes are bad in ALL contexts, for ALL people, based on statistics?

    Based on only statistics? Of course not. Based on only statistics, it would also be possible that smoking only kills some humans, and has no effect on others. But that's not the case.

    Based on the rest of our knowledge about the effects of smoking on the human body in general, coupled with those statistics, I absolutely can say that they are harmful for any person in the context you provided (of yourself).

  13. The standard of value is man's life. One's own life is one's purpose.

    Maximizing the duration of one's own life is not necessarily the goal, but rather, working to improve one's life according to the needs of a rational being is. Thus, accomplishing a great value might be worth trading off much of the duration of one's life.

    By giving up one's own life to save the life of a lover, it is not the giving up of one's own life which is the purpose, but of saving that of one's lover. Thus, one cannot say that it is not a moral action on the alleged basis that the goal is dying.

    (Apologies for replying to a year-old post, but I saw it while reading the thread along with the new posts.)

    That's alright, I remember the discussion from back then.

    Your explanation contains a contradiction (improving one's life can be done by trading it for a value) that cannot be eliminated, except by recognizing that there is one choice beyond Ethics: to live or die. Ayn Rand put it this way:

    "Life or death is man’s only fundamental alternative. To live is his basic act of choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice."

    When one should choose to not live (which was the choice being discussed) is not going to be determined by those principles of action. In fact, in the example discussed, the very reason the person chose to not live was because there was no way to live with his values intact. That rational ethics could not be applied to implement his choice to live, the choice to live became unsustainable.

  14. This is not saying that you can't drink alcohol. The above argument would say that you shouldn't have more than one standard drink in each 1-1.5 hour period (approximately the time period it takes your liver to process the alcohol). You can drink alcohol for taste, for example, but one should not drink in order to get drunk or "buzzed". That would mean that you are intentionally unfocussing your mind (and making difficult to impossible to reach full focus if needed), something which one ought never to do if they wish to live rationally. I don't see how one could ever enjoy smoking anything (as marijuana and tobacco smell terrible, for one thing), and at least with marijuana, I don't imagine it is possible to use it without getting the equivalent of an alcoholic "buzz." As a result, the use of marijuana recreationally is wrong, and should not be done under any circumstances.

    This sounds a little like Objectivism (because of the whole focused mind thing), but it isn't. Objectivism advocates for a focused mind as the means of achieving one's goals, making hard choices, creating great things, etc. However, that does not mean it calls for always lying in wait, like a damn deer or some kind of martial arts guru, ready to focus one's mind just in case something happens. In fact Rand drank to get buzzed, so did the people in her circle of friends. Plenty of people (like Miss Rand) have jobs that allow them to not worry about having to perform at full capacity 24/7. They can get off work and make the safe assumption that they can enjoy a good buzz without any negative consequences whatsoever.

    As for those advocating the use of hallucinogenics, that is an explicit desire to disconnect oneself entirely from reality, and as such is profoundly immoral; I thought that would be so obvious as to not be even in question.

    Smoking pot has never caused me to have even a single hallucination. So, if you're calling the people in this thread, who are saying there's nothing wrong with that practice, advocates for the use of hallucinogenics, you are factually and demonstrably wrong. Yes, in their purest form and taken excessively substances contained in pot are hallucinogenic, but that does not mean a joint is also hallucinogenic. Something that doesn't cause hallucinations isn't hallucinogenic.

  15. For example, smoking tobacco and drinking coffee can have a positive effect by increasing one's ability to focus in the face of mental stress, at the expense of physical health. The trade may go in favor of reducing mental stress for some. Personally, I find that smoking cigarettes helps me calmly focus when I have tough decisions to make, and I make fewer decisive mistakes in life choices as a result. I find that more valuable than 5-10 years at the back end of my life, because I'd rather live 25 more good years than 35 more mediocre ones, and on the margin the cigarettes assist me in making productive choices. If that equation changes, I'll quit.

    That equation is wrong. People who smoke a pack or more a day die ten years early on average (not 5-10, by the way, but 10). That doesn't mean you're guaranteed 25 good years, far from it. You could die (or get a debilitating disease) from smoking next year.

    The actual equation is that smoking doubles mortality rates in both middle and old age. About half of smokers die because of their habit, the other half don't. But out of those who die, half (duh!) die even earlier than that 10 year average.

    So if you continue smoking, your odds of dying more than ten years before your time are 25%, and your odds of dying during middle age are two times greater than mine. If you quit before the age of 50, the chances of dying, from that point on, from your previous smoking are cut by at least half, but a lot more the faster you quit. (for instance, if you quit before the age of 30, you're almost completely safe).

    The above facts are one of two reasons why I quit (the other was that smoking was affecting my appetite and physical condition). Looking back on it, I also realize that one of the arguments I used to come up with for smoking (that it relaxes me, and helps me think and work) was in fact dead wrong. I was comparing my mental state while smoking not with the state of a non-smoker, but rather with my mental state during times of withdrawal (whenever I was stuck in a place where I couldn't light up). Of course you can't think while going through withdrawal. But that says nothing about your ability to think once you've quit. There is no evidence to suggest those who stop smoking are negatively impacted as far as their ability to focus and make good decisions. If anything, I'm more functional and calm now, that I quit (since I'm never going through withdrawal).

  16. Every viable plan to achieve something great begins with the smallest of steps. For instance, Rearden didn't get a job because working as a day laborer made him happy, but because it was the first step in his long term plan. And he was content doing his menial job because he knew it was a part of something important. That meant it wasn't menial at all.

    You're right, you shouldn't get a shitty McDs job to try and make yourself happy, and such a job should not make any Objectivist happy. You should get a shitty job as the first step in a plan to achieve something worthwhile with your life, in the long run. You don't even have to know exactly what that something is for now, because no matter what it is, it requires you to take this first step. You should think about what exactly you wish to accomplish, eventually, but that certainly shouldn't be your priority. The one important thing you need to understand is this simple fact: every great human achievement necessarily starts with one small step. That is the only way to start yours.

    Your mistake is that you are trying to come up with a first step that's as important as possible. You should do the exact opposite: come up with a first step that is as easy as possible. I'm not 100% sure what it should be, but based on what you wrote, I would suggest considering getting a very basic job. Don't worry about it being a good job, just take whatever job is the easiest to get. The significance of having taken the first step makes the quality of the job irrelevant: the job is not your primary goal, taking the first step is.

  17. How much of my essay did you read? It sounds like you have only read half of it. Please correct me if I am wrong.m I think I have made the case sufficiently for the proper system for national security with respect to torture and tortures place in it within the entire spectrum of potential events. None of my main points have really been mentioned in this thread so this is why I was wanting some more clarification.

    So from that you assumed I didn't read your blog? An alternate explanation is that I didn't consider what you regard as your main points worth addressing. For instance your claim that national security cannot be advanced by torture is not an argument, it's bald assertion. Your "proof" of the bald assertions is youtube videos and links of other people making the same bald assertions.

    Your blog is full of those, and other fallacious arguments (like the ridiculous claim that sanctioning the torture of enemies makes a country totalitarian). I'm getting tired of addressing them, especially when they're on somebody's 6000 word blog post that starts out with the disclaimer: Important Note: There is a large repository of both news links and quite a few embedded videos that I have provided at the very bottom of this blog post. Don't miss it!.

    I read most of the link (I skipped the irrelevant parts about Abu Ghraib), and I have not seen anything in it to back up your claims. I also skipped the links in the link to your blog, and the links to the video interviews in the link to your blog. So if you have anything in those (or any place else on the Internet) to address Sam Harris's argument, now's the time to stop linking to links, and start presenting arguments on this forum.

  • Create New...