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Jul 01 2012

The borg talks to itself

We did another Freethought blogs conversation video. We talked about social justice and facts v values and equality / happiness.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    Ace of Sevens

    Are you an emotivist, then?

  2. 2
    Josh Slocum

    Thoughtcrime. Groupthink. Jackbooted feminazism. No dissent.

    Variolation complete.

  3. 3
    researchtobedone

    I love these videos.

  4. 4
    Blueaussi

    I am enjoying these discussions. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to do them.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    I dunno, but I’ve kind of been schooled in emotivism. It came up when Jeremy and I were writing Does God Hate Women?, as well as before that – plus reading some metaethics, etc. I did at least learn something from collaborating with philosophers for awhile.

  6. 6
    601

    Thanks, that was great.

    On values, can Sam’s Landscape find our values via scientific objectivity?

    Despite a very strong desire for just community ethics (equality and such), I’m still worried my choice is somehow arbitrary.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Noooooooo. Sam’s Landscape is awful.

    Read Patricia Churchland’s Braintrust instead. Same territory, because she’s a neuroscientist, but she’s also (and first) a philosopher, so she knows how to argue instead of just announcing.

  8. 8
    601

    Ok, I’ll take a look at Braintrust.

    But I do feel minimal suffering is an important “objective” goal. Although I think it may be a two dimensional problem; with both a selfish-fear axis (to minimize) AND a selfless-love one (to maximize).

    And I like Political Atheist.

  9. 9
    Julian

    Shut the fuck up.

    You are such a fucking moron.

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Nice to meet you too.

  11. 11
    julian

    That was a great discussion. I really enjoyed the back and forth (though it would have been better to hear more from Griffith and Biodork).

  12. 12
    Ace of Sevens

    And Griffith needs to hunker down or point his camera up. How tall is he?

  13. 13
    Felix

    Right at the end there somebody (I think it was Al) said “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and therefore ‘we’ (he/you/they) should make alliances with e.g. LGBT groups, Womens issue groups etc.

    That strikes me a very bad reasoning!

    You should support these groups because they are ‘for’ what you are ‘for’ not because they are ‘against’ (for whatever reason) the same people that you are ‘against’ (for a different reason).

    After all, if it was 1975, we wouldn’t be supporting the USSR because they were atheists, we would be opposing them because they abused human rights.

    Today, we don’t support Rumsfeld in his desire to bomb Iran because we think “Iranians are Muslims therefore bombing them is good”. We oppose him becuase his desired course of action will worsen the situation not improve it.

    Anyway, I expect Al (if it was he) would agree!

  14. 14
    'Tis Himself

    Felix #13

    Right at the end there somebody (I think it was Al) said “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and therefore ‘we’ (he/you/they) should make alliances with e.g. LGBT groups, Womens issue groups etc.

    That strikes me a very bad reasoning!

    From The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries:

    The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.

  15. 15
    MudPuddles

    I watched almost the first half (and really enjoyed the discussion) – I’ll watch the rest tomorrow, but at this point I am compelled to make one little comment, Ophelia.

    You refer to research findings that people living under lower levels of equality are happier, but my understanding of that issue is that the surveys merely demonstrated a correlation, rather than causation. In other words, the existence of established or enforced social inequality does not, by and large, significantly affect the aggregate level of happiness reported in most of the cases. (Also, let’s not forget that “happiness” is extremely difficult to define and measure within communities, not to mention cross different countries.)

    In many of the countries concerned, there are a great many very major factors at play, and specific reasons why happiness is reportedly higher on average than in more equal societies. In many developing nations, the major inequality that affects subjective happiness is income inequality within peer groups, which in deeply impoverished communities is rarely an issue; often, the standard of living is almost uniformly so low (in comparison to our own here in the West) for the majority that there is less basis for a feeling of inequality as we would see it. Another major factor is religion. Religiously mandated inequality is often not seen as negative by those who experience it because they may believe it is demanded by an almighty being. One well know example of this is the fact that large numbers of Afghan women have reported that they were relatively happy under Taliban rule – because despite their lack of freedoms (as we see them), they saw their country and their lives under Sharia-type government as morally correct; living according to God’s law brought its own specific reward of a sense of well-being. Meanwhile, of those who may have objected to this fundamentally ingrained sexism, many will still report that they experienced a high degree of happiness because of the increased security (less crime against individuals, greater livelihood security etc) under the harsh rule, as well as significant social capital in the form of greater support for family and community ties and other supporting networks.

    On the flip side, the average person in the US and Western Europe will often feel much more anger, frustration, and discontent when they experience, perceive or witness social inequality, simply because we have more appreciation of its importance (to us) and so often will have much more invested in seeing inequality ended. I (respectfully) think that you and I would struggle greatly under the current social systems in the UAE or Uzbekistan; but equally many people from those countries would find our set up to be full of risks and compromises they might rather not face.

    My point I guess, is that it is still difficult to find a situation where analysis of the facts would demonstrate that the goals of social justice might not be supported scientifically.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Right…the truth is I know pretty much nothing about that study, I think I just saw a press release or blog post or something about it and never followed up. I so often never do follow up. It stuck in my mind as a stumbling block but without the details.

    [sticks burning face in ice bucket]

  17. 17
    MudPuddles

    Sorry :( I didn’t mean to come across like I was calling you out! I’m particularly interested in this because I am working in areas of social justice in countries where gross inequality is pretty much the norm, and there are just so many baffling and conflicting factors swirling around (I specialise in inequalities associated with environemtal issues). I think that with many of the individual issues we (in this skeptic / atheist community) try to address, there really is a whole lot going on and its often hard to define simple cause-effect linkages, which makes the task of dealing with opposing voices – from fundamentalists to trolls, who often are not even slightly inclined to listen to in-depth analysis – very difficult.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    No, I didn’t take it that way! Just goofing around. I do wish I were more efficient about following up on things.

    No, it’s very interesting, I’m glad to know about it.

  19. 19
    Kate Donovan

    To all unable/too-time-crunched folks, I’m making a transcript :)

  20. 20
    Graham

    You don’t seem to have heard of this book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

    From Amazon:

    It is well established that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. Now a groundbreaking book, based on thirty years’ research, takes an important step past this idea. The Spirit Level shows that there is one common factor that links the healthiest and happiest societies: the degree of equality among their members. Not wealth; not resources; not culture, climate, diet, or system of government. Furthermore, more-unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them—the well-off as well as the poor.

  21. 21
    elronxenu

    If you could find and/or link to this study, it would help.

    I got a differing opinion from browsing the studies at http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/ – while they don’t correlate happiness with equality, they do correlate life satisfaction with the perception of choice and autonomy here:

    http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs/articles/folder_published/publication_574/files/cs.pdf

  22. 22
    baal

    I particularly liked Communists points in this session. I have to give the whole blog kudos for even attempting (let alone largely succeeding) to have such massive transparency.

  23. 23
    Martha

    I really like these videos, too.

    As for this video, I found myself cheering along as you talked about values. I have a lot of trouble with the idea that values are fundamentally rational or scientific. I’m a scientist, and I find it extremely worrying when scientists claim that science itself provides moral answers. Sure, science can tell us that mutations work much the same way in humans as in bacteria, when one allows for the huge difference in generation time. In marked contrast, science can’t tell us that it’s ok to use antibiotics, but wrong to murder people. Those are value judgments.

    I’ve never been embarrassed to call myself an atheist, but I simply don’t want to be a part of a community that rejects value judgments as illogical. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be willing to ally myself with such atheists to support victims of discrimination, and I certainly support their right to a nihilistic world view. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s reasonable to build a community solely on the basis of a lack of belief in the supernatural. There also has to be a shared commitment to social justice. If that means I need to call myself a humanist instead of an atheist, that’s just fine by me.

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