The Curious Case of Jaclyn Glenn

Screencap of Jaclyn Glenn speaking in her video warning atheists about extreme feminismI’ve been watching the foot-in-mouth implosion of Jaclyn Glenn of late, and some might want to know my take on it, because some people have asked, given that she kind of sort of but really doesn’t criticize Atheism+.

Atheism Plus More Than Just Whatever

Atheism+ is just a name sometimes used (and rarely anymore) for the growing and ongoing movement to unite atheism, humanism, and skepticism. Hence the “+” in Atheism+ means simply “Atheism + Humanism + Skepticism.” (See all my past writing on the subject, especially my American Atheists convention talk in 2013, a transcript of which I have just now made available, along with a non-animated edition of my slideshow. I have also just published an essay on it in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 21.1 [2013], pp. 105-13, which you can now read online as Atheism…Plus What?)

There are generally only three kinds of people against Atheism+ (apart from people who don’t actually know anything about it): people who love and support the goals but hate the name (and I’m all for them…because as I’ve said from day one, I really don’t care what you call it); people who realize humanism entails feminism and hate feminism (and these are often in my experience either awful people or the cultish fans of awful people); and people who realize skepticism means skepticism of claims they like, and hate it when people tear apart their own cherished beliefs (and these are ironically usually the people comprising the SkepticTM community, yet they could take a lesson from the actual Rationality Community: if you aren’t questioning your own beliefs, you are just a dogpile of cognitive biases…like, pretty much every religious person ever).

There are also people who hate the Atheism+ forums, but since I’m not aware of any major Atheism+ advocate having anything to do with those anymore, I really can’t help you if they are eating your babies and skeet shooting kittens. They no longer have official ties to any of us, and are just doing their own thing. Which was, and for all I know still faithfully is, to create a safe space for discussion among advocates of A+ ideals…in other words, a space just for them…so if you are annoyed they won’t let you into their club, usually because you are breaking their rules and aren’t a support advocate, the only people the space was created for, then check your privilege and just accept the fact that you don’t get to disrupt other people’s meetings. If, on the other hand, you are annoyed they said something awful (so far every time someone has said this to me, it turned out not to be true, but whatever), just remember they aren’t me, or any other major advocate of Atheism+ or its goals. Some atheists are horrible people. That doesn’t mean atheism is horrible. As for atheism, so for Atheism+. See Hasty Generalization Fallacy.

Okay, end digression. Back to Jaclyn Glenn.

Summary of a Cascading Train Wreck

This all sort of started back when Glenn went off on a clueless, insensitive, and confusing rant about how misogynist ideology had nothing to do with triggering and molding the behavior of mass murderer Elliot Roger. Or had something to do but not enough to do. Or something. Her point to this day remains unclear. It just sounded like an Archie Bunker ranting his annoyance at so many people calling attention to how ideology + madness = evil (example: fascist Islam + madness = Osama bin Laden). Like Glenn Beck complaining about people blaming Christianity for abortion doctor shootings. Because “those aren’t real Christians” / “that’s not a real misogynist.” No, I know, it doesn’t make sense. I’m not claiming to fathom Jaclyn Glenn’s point.

Screencap of Cristina Rad talking in her video about patriarchy theoryAnyway, Cristina Rad pwned her right quick, demonstrating the difference between art, sense, clarity, and responsible evidence-based reasoning, and, well, the lack thereof.

That evidently led to bad things. It would seem our erstwhile Archie Bunker got even more annoyed at what their rant wrought, and then produced another video, Atheism + Drama. Which was then promoted by the American Atheists PR Director. (Yep.) By Dawkins, too, of course (no one is surprised). But American Atheists? That’s just sad. They need to hire a PR guy who actually knows how PR works. Anyway, the description of Atheism + Drama begins “A video about Atheism+ and pussies. How appropriate. For those of you wondering- Atheism + is pretty much atheism plus radical feminism.”

Given the content of the video I assume she meant “pussies” as in cats, albeit with the pun on vagina intended. And so I assume she did not mean to say that feminists are pussies. Although in the video there is some vague reference to people taking offense at the word pussy, presumably (?) implying that we aren’t alarmed by calling people dicks, so what’s wrong with calling them pussies? So in case that was her point (?), here is why…

Because equating having a vagina with being pathetic and weak is so totes great for women. I’m infamous for my vulgar working class language (I get attacked for it all the time), and yet even I don’t use toxic slurs like that. Because I don’t believe having a vagina = pathetic and weak, nor do I believe in promoting the idea that having a vagina = pathetic and weak. Pussy punches down. Whereas “dick” punches up: those who have dicks do indeed disproportionately act like, well, dicks: because power and privilege advantages men, and dickishness is power and privilege dialed to eleven. No one assumes that by calling someone a dick you are maligning all possessors of a dick with dickish attributes. Whereas most people do assume that by calling someone a pussy it’s because the worst thing to call a man is a woman. To see the difference, notice how easy it is for a man to be proud of being called a dick. And how nearly impossible it is for anyone, a man or a woman, to be proud of being called a pussy. That’s the difference. One references an attribute in men that many admire and is just called out when being abused. The other is an attribute everyone despises and considers pathetic and shameful. Guess which one is associated with women.

(Oh, BTW, you know who did a really superb video, the best I’ve ever seen, on exactly that point? Cristina Rad. She also has a great blog post and video about why she realized she needed to get behind feminism and not attack it anymore. Which proves people can get it even after they seem like they won’t.)

The best response to Glenn’s Drama is Alex Gabriel’s. It’s a good read top to bottom. In fact, it’s required reading. I’ll assume you’ve read it, in the rest to follow. He amusingly observes right from the start that in this video, supposedly about Atheism Plus, “she at no point actually mentions Atheism Plus.” He then proceeds to show how out of touch it is with the reality the rest of us are living in. (If you want a more thorough fisking, Avicenna has one for you.)

Glenn has a rep for being out of touch with reality. She lovingly accepts and promotes defenses and endorsements from The Amazing Atheist (one of the most horrible people we have in vlogging…does Glenn really not know this?) and The Cult of Dusty (whose creepy anti-semitic jokes will raise the hair on the back of your neck: see analysis by David Landon Cole and The True Pooka, but for the scariest example: “I have nothing against the Jewish people, but if one people or another has been trying to wipe you out over and over again for thousands of years, at some point you might want to ask ‘Maybe it’s us?'” Holy crap Batman).[1] Glenn might not also be aware of Thunderf00t’s evident sociopathy, misogyny, racism, and borderline criminal behavior. Or Pat Condell’s wildly off-the-rails bigotry, and support of violent racist gangs (the EDL being essentially a British analog to the modern KKK, only more violent, and focused on Muslims rather than blacks).

That’s all fixable. When Hemant Mehta promoted the Amazing Atheist and then got schooled by half a dozen commenters on just what that meant, he apologized and said had he known all that he’d have never promoted his video. With so many vloggers and bloggers out there now, it’s possible to miss stuff. It’s only when missing stuff becomes an unapologetic trend that we’re in problem territory.

So, yes, it’s embarrassing to be so out of touch, and so annoyed at what you don’t understand, that thousands of people facepalm every time you try to vent your rage at it. But you know what’s even more embarrassing? When you complain about being called “unoriginal” by plagiarizing someone else’s words and passing them off as your own. Yes, Glenn has done this more than once: see Anti-Feminist Vlogger Jaclyn Glenn Plagiarizes YouTube & Twitter Comments. She later “fixed” the most embarrassing of those examples by adding an attribution and admitting she should have done that in the first place, kind of like a cat that runs pell-mell into a glass door and then immediately sits down and starts calmly grooming itself like nothing ever happened (“That’s right. I’m cool. I planned that. Nothing to see here.”) (The other instance, being in a video plagiarizing another video, can’t be fixed so well. But even the first, originating in a complaint about being called unoriginal, I’m afraid she might never live down. That was definitely an own goal.)

It’s also embarrassing to complain about drama, by deliberating stoking up even more drama–and in the most deliberately dramatic fashion…literally, with dramatic enactments of divisive stereotypes: putting on a blonde wig [stereotype] and acting out straw caricatures of positions she fails to identify as even analogous to any held by any actual existing person, so as to smear an entire group, “feminists,” that isn’t anything like what she’s portrayed–a group already well known for being the target of widespread personal attacks and intimidation and disinformation campaigns, even targeted for murder, a group that in fact comprises an enormous segment of the atheist community (and nearly all of the humanist community), particularly among women. And she’s the one complaining about divisiveness and drama.

Alas. So she dredges up drama with her ill informed and insensitive video about Rodger, gets rightly torn down on almost every point, flips her lid and stokes even more drama with an ill-conceived and stereotyped rant about (?) feminists (or something?), and when that has the effect she should by now have predicted (pissing a lot of good people off, people actively fighting for women’s rights), she stokes even more drama with a response video that’s even more melodramatic, out of touch, and divisive. All to complain about drama and to tell people not to be divisive. This sounds a lot like her complaining about being called unoriginal by being criminally unoriginal. Foot, mouth.

Hey, you know what would actually work if your goal is to end divisiveness in a community? Actually trying to reach out to the people you don’t get along with or don’t understand, read what they have written about this and take them seriously, and try to understand why there are these differences, and to find a way to get along with them. In other words, if you hate divisiveness that much, stop being divisive. Learn. And promote understanding.

Of course, I can predict what will happen if she ever actually tried that: she’d then discover that there are, in reality (and that means, contrary to mythology), only two sides to this issue (not counting clueless people in between who don’t know what’s going on or are not that well informed…like Glenn). There are horrible people who say horrible things and endorse and defend horrible behavior, and people who think that’s horrible. You can’t really heal that rift. You can’t claim that blacks are divisive because they won’t get along with the KKK. And you can’t claim feminists are divisive when they won’t get along with people who treat women and women’s issues with unapologetic disrespect. Some people need to be cut loose. Like the KKK. And MRAs. (And everyone who defends them and insists we get along with them.)

Now to my take on the cascading train wreck of her last two videos on this topic.

Glenn’s Drama

Glenn’s Drama video is four minutes of WTF. (Seriously. Watch it. No, please, really. Force yourself to sit through it. I promise no triggers or anything horrible. It’s bewildering and perplexing and devoid of coherent cognitive content. That’s kind of the problem. But tedious is more tolerable than, say, misogynistic, so you can handle it. It’s just four minutes.)

The bizarre shit starts around minute 0:40. Then we have to sit through three (!) minutes of some sort of completely made-up debate, that no one has ever had…and Glenn is not claiming they have, she clearly knows this is totally made-up, which defies the point of using it. Something that never happens, is not usually going to be a good analog to what really happens. So why are we being made to watch this? I don’t know. But do watch it, so you can see what I mean…

I am a little disturbed by what this looks like she is doing: defending MRA ideology. “Why do you fight all the time for women’s rights, why don’t you fight for men’s rights?” That’s the stock MRA slogan. It’s the Dear Muslima of MRA propaganda. That might not be what she intended, but since she doesn’t tell us what she intended, all we are left with is what it looks like. So if it looks like something she didn’t intend, that’s on her. Bad communication. And worse, people who agree with that twisted view may well be regarding her as defending it. Either way, it bears response.

It’s a ridiculous trope, of course, because feminists do fight for both. It’s not as if Greta Christina never goes to bat for religious freedom because she’s so busy just helping women. It’s not as if I haven’t also advocated for attention to men’s issues at the same time that I advocate for feminism, write about feminist issues, and even debate with fellow feminists (yes, feminists disagree with each other…and have civil debates about it…shock!). We just know that women’s rights have a lot further to go–and that most of what’s peculiarly bad for men is a product of their own culture’s sexist treatment of women.

For example, the trope that “women are more caring than men” is sometimes blamed for gender disparities in the resolution of child custody cases, yet that disparity is really anti-woman sexism run amok. To begin with, the trope itself is a product of male “control doctrines” to dominate women: you are more caring means you belong at home taking care of our babies while we take care of the important cerebral stuff in the world that requires stoic resolve. And it would be unfair to blame women when men’s own sexism comes back to bite them. But in reality, this trope has little or nothing to do with remaining disparities in child custody cases. The data show that in fact, when both parents are otherwise equally fit and asking for custody, child custody cases are most typically decided in favor of which parent has been devoting the most time to the care of the child, regardless of whether it’s the father or the mother. That that just happens more often to be the woman is a product of the sexist cultural assumption that women take care of babies while men work to support them. A cultural assumption feminists have been at the forefront of combating–and which ironically MRAs are often at the forefront of defending. (Yep. They want to help men, by defending the sexist attitudes about women that hurt men, by forcing men and women into strict gender roles that are the very cause of the disadvantage to men that they complain about. Meanwhile, feminists are actually helping men by fighting the stereotypes that disadvantage them.)

This is the kind of nuance you don’t get from Glenn. I don’t think she even knew about any of that or has ever thought about it. Which is her only saving grace. It allows me to think that maybe she doesn’t realize she is defending a stock argument for the vile ideological misogyny of the MRA movement. “Men have problems too” is a silencing tactic, meant to argue that we should stop paying attention to the far more ubiquitous and extreme ways women are disadvantaged in society. And it relies on the myth that feminists don’t ever do anything for men. When in reality, feminists are the ones doing the most for men, not only by advancing the ideals of feminism itself (e.g. tearing down the stereotypes that hurt both sexes, exposing toxic notions of masculinity, helping men better understand women), but also by advancing causes other than feminism. Because no feminist is just a feminist. Some are also advocates for prison and sentencing reform, for example (an injustice that affects far more men than women–given that more men are incarcerated–although women are also ground under by America’s horrific penal system). Why, gosh golly heck, some are even animal rights activists! (I mention that because…well, if you’ve watched Glenn’s video by now, you’ll know why). The idea that feminists only do feminist causes is an MRA myth. To see Jaclyn Glenn seemingly buying into that myth, and even promoting it, can only be either tragic or disturbing–depending on her level of awareness of just what she’s done.

The strangest thing is that no argument is actually made in this video. Feminism is never mentioned. Atheism Plus is never mentioned. No positions or arguments from any feminists or Atheism Plus advocates are ever mentioned. No actual positions or arguments, of any kind, are mentioned in this video. No comparison is drawn between her wildly bizarre and contra-factual analog and…anything. Whatever her point is, good luck figuring it out. Whatever she is actually responding to, no idea. The only reason anyone would ever think this video has anything to do with feminism or Atheism Plus is that its description says that it does. It says this video explains how feminists and Atheism Plus advocates are … er, are like … or … uh… have (maybe?) … “pussies.” Or something. I don’t know.

I’m flummoxed.

Glenn’s Bewaring

So, that. People got annoyed. So Glenn flips her lid again. And this time produces Atheists–Beware of the Extreme Feminist! Now here is where one could actually produce a good, informative video, explaining the difference between mainstream and what she calls “radical” feminism.[2] There are such things as horrifically extremist feminists that 99% of professed feminists denounce. And you can find their rarefied and bizarre manhating blogs if you look around long enough. But then, I can also find white supremacist atheists who wax poetical about Hitler. One would not then conclude that atheists (or indeed even a significant segment of atheists) were Hitler-loving white supremacists. Right? One can attack the fringe whacko atheist, without attacking or maligning atheists. But somehow, when people attack “fringe whacko feminism,” all feminists get thrown under the bus. Indeed, in most cases I don’t think the person talking about “fringe whacko feminism” has actually read a fringe whacko feminist. (I have. It’s scary.)

This video starts with some unrelated bungling. She seems to confuse the institutional criminality of the Catholic Church as somehow an indictment of even the liberal sects of Christianity that denounce it. She seems even to say liberal Christians share blame for the Tea Party. That doesn’t make much sense. She then starts citing Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (which she just recently started reading!) as if it were an authoritative science textbook, when in fact all scientific experts on gender have denounced it as pseudoscience (e.g. see this summary by Paul Harris; and this dissertation by Jo Noonan). How does she not know this? Sigh. Anyway. She only uses it for an argument in favor of validation as a communication procedure, which is genuine science at least (although contrary to its sexist deployment in MAMWAV, it applies equally to all genders). But it’s an odd point to make since this is precisely what Glenn hasn’t been doing for the feminist community.

Anyway, she then at least gets to a sensible point, which is that she has been trying to say she is against extreme versions of feminism and not all feminism. Except she never explains what the difference is. Nor does she apologize for the communication failure of having failed to explain this before. Remember, her Drama video’s descrip said all Atheism Plus advocates are the Extreme Feminists she is attacking. Which means she is attacking me. And Greta Christina. And numerous other leading, mainstream feminist authors. Not extremists. So her claim only to be attacking some sort of undefined “extremist” looks very disingenuous.

And now in her Beware video, it just gets worse. Because again she fails to identify a single actual instance of the extreme feminism she is arguing against. She claims she’s seen it. But that’s no help to us, because we don’t know what she means by that–what is she considering an extreme version of feminism? This is a basic communication failure: assuming your audience knows what you are talking about, and thus failing to point them to any examples of what you are talking about. In actual fact, anti-feminists call almost all feminism “extreme feminism.” It’s a trope. I can only assume Glenn is so out of touch she doesn’t know that this is a rhetorical tactic: denouncing all feminism by calling any instance of feminism “radical feminism.” Because if she knew that, she’d realize how important it is for her to explain that’s not what she means, and to explain just in fact what she does mean, what actually is extreme feminism, and why.

Glenn then reinforces the communication failure of her previous video by saying she was only attacking feminists who act like she portrayed in that video. But in that video she never explained what feminists or feminist arguments she was talking about. Again, MRAs say all those same things. But when they say “radfem,” they actually mean all feminism. So it does not help Glenn to repeat the rhetorical tropes of the MRA movement by claiming she didn’t mean “the good ones” but only “the bad ones.” Because that’s the rhetoric the MRA movement uses to attack all feminism and pretend not to be. Glenn still has yet to explain what she means by “the bad ones,” and still has not presented a single actual example of it.

At SSA West Con last month I gave a talk on exactly this kind of communications failure. Video of that may go online in a few weeks, but an expanded print version of my talk is available already on Lanyrd. Read the section there titled “Start with the Particular and then Generalize.” In short, if you don’t give actual concrete examples of what you are talking about, we cannot determine if you have correctly generalized from particulars or not, we cannot even determine what kinds of particulars you are generalizing from. A huge number of communications disasters have resulted from this. Don’t do it. Whenever you possibly can, always give particular, real world examples of what you are talking about, and then build generalizations and abstract principles from them. And when you do that, make sure your generalizations and abstractions are actually justified by the particulars you’ve assembled. You may realize you have to nuance your generalizations. Glenn has consistently failed to do all of this.

And this is a problem because Glenn is communicating (cluelessly, I hope) in an atmosphere where her exact arguments (generalizations devoid of particulars, effectively attacking all feminism under the guise of attacking only radical feminism) are a mainstay of antifeminist and MRA rhetoric. She has no right to be shocked that that’s how people react to her: as someone repeating antifeminist and MRA rhetoric. Had she been more clued in to what’s actually going on in the world, she would have known this from day one, and thus avoided repeating and thus lending inadvertent support to misogynist ideologies. At least I hope. Let’s all hope, that what for them is a tactic, is for her just incompetence.

This cluelessness then leads her to defend herself with an infamous fallacy (around minute 3:20). Instead of realizing that what went wrong is that she waded into a debate wholly unfamiliar with the weapons already being used by misogynists in that debate, and thus cluelessly used those same weapons, she blames all feminists for getting angry because she must have “hit close to home” with her criticism (echoes of blaming liberal Protestants for the crimes of the Catholic church here). I teach a seminar in logic in which I present almost the exact same fallacy she just did, as a teaching tool. In this case I use an actual example from Mike Hukabee: “The Air Force has a saying that says ‘if you’re not catching flak, you’re not over the target’. I’m catching flak, so I must be on target.” Here is a diagram of the logic he (and thus Glenn) just used:

  •  If A (you’re not catching flak) then B (you’re not on the target).
  • ~A (you are catching flak).
  • Therefore ~B (you are on the target).

This is called the Fallacy of Denying the Antecedent.

So, that.

Tripping over logic aside, Glenn then goes on to criticize PZ Myers’ response to her Drama video. And here, most bizarrely, Glenn makes a really strange error. She completely misses the fact that PZ actually made the point that I just did: give particulars, not fantasy abstractions. She says instead that PZ argued she shouldn’t mock her opponents (and then rightly refutes such a silly argument by pointing out atheists do this all the time, even PZ). But PZ never argued that. See Straw Man Fallacy.

Here is what PZ actually said (in the very article Glenn links to and claims to be answering):

Look, if you want to be effective, you have to at least quote the real arguments of real opponents. Do not invent characters who do not exist and then place silly words in their mouths. If I’m arguing against religion, I don’t have to resort to mocking imaginary Christians — there is more than enough proudly stated idiocy in the religious community to keep me busy for years. It’s telling that when Glenn wants to argue against the divisiveness of feminists, she has to gather lots of hay and stuff it into a silly costume, and then translate them to vegetarianism, in order to try and come off looking reasonable.

That is not arguing “don’t mock people.” To the contrary, PZ explicitly endorses mocking people here. What PZ is saying is: if you’re going to resort to mockery, mock something that actually exists. Just as I explained above, and in my SSA talk.

Glenn doesn’t get the point.

She so doesn’t get the point, that now, in this eleven minute video, she still doesn’t give any actual examples of what she means by “extreme” feminism.

Glenn then claims PZ Myers has said things about her like “she’s just a cute girl.” A Google search of “just a cute girl” “pz myers” “jaclyn glenn” produces no hits; with just “cute girl,” I find only someone else, not PZ, saying anything like that. Without context, I can’t comment–on even whether he actually said that, much less what he meant by it or how he qualified or contextualized it. (That’s why citing sources and explaining context is important, Jaclyn Glenn.) Glenn goes on to make more claims, again without citing sources or giving a real example. So we can’t check who she is talking about, or what they actually said, or the context in which they said it, or how they qualified it.

This is just the worst possible way to communicate.

But there is evidence her reasoning is also too defensive to get the point. On the plagiarism case, she now says, in a childishly mocking tone (around minute 6:00), that after she fixed it, “then of course, as expected, you get the typical response, ‘she only fixed it because we said something!’ … So would you have me not fix it?”

I can pretty much tell that’s not what her critics meant. They meant that she pretended she didn’t make an embarrassing mistake that refuted the very argument she was trying to make (“I’m not unoriginal; let me prove it by doing the most quintessentially unoriginal thing”). They meant that fixing it after the fact does not alter history: she still had to be told to give credit, and only when she was caught. Which casts into doubt all her other work: how many other times has she done this, and she just wasn’t caught? But more importantly, why did she have to be told to do this? Why did it not even occur to her in the first place that borrowing someone else’s words without attribution and passing them off as your own is something you just don’t do? You don’t get off that hook by scrambling to add the attribution. The original error is still disturbing, and remains disturbing. That’s what people mean by “you only did this because we caught you.” They don’t mean you should never have corrected the record. They are saying correcting the record doesn’t solve the deeper problem that caused this to happen in the first place.

It’s just like when a celebrity gets caught running dogfights and then repents tearfully on TV and gives money to a dog rescue charity. “You only did that because we caught you” is a legitimate criticism. The celebrity doesn’t get off the hook that way. It’s all very nice, what they did after the fact. Cheers all around. But it doesn’t change the fact that they thought it was cool to kill dogs for bloodsport. That deeper problem–that such a thing would seem okay to them in the first place–remains uncorrected. And they remain unredeemed.

Is that not the most important lesson Glenn should be learning from this? Instead she seems to avoid learning it, by defensively misunderstanding the entire point of what her critics are telling her. I am not encouraged by that.

It’s at this point (around timestamp 6:20) that Glenn starts into a rant about what “they” say and think. Who is “they”? She seems to mean all her critics…in other words, all feminists criticizing her. So much for this video supposedly being about “extreme” feminists. At no point in this video does she ever actually discuss “extreme” feminism. All she does is react defensively to her critics and tar them all with the same strawman generalizations. In short, she is saying any feminist who criticizes her is an extreme feminist. Which is exactly again what MRAs do: claim to be attacking “extreme” feminism, and then only rant about all feminists and what “they” (feminists) do and say. Again, that Glenn is treated like an MRA is because she is acting exactly like an MRA. That she doesn’t realize this is what she’s doing makes this sad. But that still doesn’t help her cause.

Atheism Plus More Than Just Whatever Again

And then for the first time in all these videos she mentions Atheism Plus (around 6:30), only to say there have been serious mistakes in it, but again she gives no examples. None. Worse, she only says this to use it in a Tu Quoque Fallacy (Glenn is not very good with logic). Glenn then says that she approves of what Atheism Plus stands for (or “what it should stand for”), although she again doesn’t really say what that is. This again sounds like MRAs who say they approve of what feminism “should” stand for, if only it wasn’t for all those actual feminists ruining the world. I don’t think that’s what Glenn means. But again, it’s exactly what she sounds like.

Screencap from Chappelle's Show, the "Instant Reply" shot of Rick James immediately denying and then affirming the same statement in the same breathBut then Glenn explicitly denies that she’s in favor of Atheism Plus (7:10). After having just said she approves of it (7:00). A certain hilarious episode of Chappelle’s Show comes to mind. But to explain why she is against Atheism Plus she gives another bizarre analogy, this time about an awful movie theater being a great idea but horrid in execution. But then she never connects this analogy to Atheism Plus. She never explains what in Atheism Plus has been badly executed. Or why. Nor does she seem to grasp that if it’s a great idea badly executed, why not then execute it well? There are, after all, movie theaters that aren’t horrid. No one says “this one theater sucked, therefore I am against all movie theaters whatever.” So Glenn’s analogy is hosed from start to finish. This is just the worst way to argue.

Glenn then goes on to repeat the overworn trope of everyone who has ever been criticized since ever: “Couldn’t you have just called me first?” Advice she then has never once followed herself (at least in this fiasco). Which fits the trope, because everyone who has ever said that, also has never actually done it. DJ Grothe could have called Rebecca Watson before blaming her for something she wasn’t at fault for. When he got pwned for this, his complaint? “My critics should have called me first.” Ron Lindsay could have spoken to some feminists first about some of his concerns before telling an audience of feminists about his completely uninformed concerns. When he got pwned for this, his complaint? “My critics should have called me first.” Jaclyn Glenn doesn’t call the people she criticizes before criticizing them. Why does she expect the people she criticizes to then call her before criticizing her back?

Public discourse is not a coffee klatch. If you say something in public, you will get criticized for it in public. That’s how it works. We all need to accept this. Or get out of the business of saying things in public.

Glenn then says various things that are perfectly reasonable but not relevant (like that she is friends with Cristina Rad, can have productive debates with her, and did not mean to imply she was mocking Rad with that wig…for the record, I didn’t think she was). She then defends Cult of Dusty’s anti-Semitic jokes (see below). Then asks people to get along. And…wrap.

In case you haven’t noticed, still no discussion of extreme feminists or what extreme feminism is. Anywhere.

What we are left with is the description of her Drama video that “Atheism + is pretty much atheism plus radical feminism.” Which basically is saying all feminism is radical feminism. The very thing she insists she’s not saying, yet says right there. And yet nowhere in that video does she defend that claim or even expound on it. Nor again in her eleven minute followup video, which was supposed (?) to explain what her Drama video didn’t.

So in all these videos Glenn still hasn’t explained what feminist statements she is against or who said them or where. She still hasn’t explained what’s wrong with Atheism Plus or why she is not interested in fixing it. She has not, in fact, said hardly anything substantive at all, apart from various illogical and ill-informed reasons why people should stop giving her a hard time for being illogical and ill-informed.

Perplexing.

More logic, more listening, more caring about what people are saying, better communication skills, and less defensiveness, could produce a better Jaclyn Glenn. Hope remains.

-:-

[1] Note that Glenn says Dusty told her his ‘Jews deserved it’ line was “just” a joke–but this isn’t the only disturbing remark from him on the subject, so that explanation is a bit thin, and Pooka and Cole not only explain that, but also why “it’s just a joke” is exactly what anti-Semites always say. Glenn also says Dusty apologized, but provides no public evidence of this, and I was unable to find any. A public apology video for all his anti-Semitic jokes is surely the appropriate recourse for anyone who is genuinely apologetic. If he ever does this, let me know and I’ll add a link here. Also in his defense Glenn creates a false parallel between a staged stand-up routine about random children, and internet comments made to and about Jews: not in a staged stand-up routine, and repeating bigoted tropes, about a still-persecuted minority who in living memory was subject to a massive attempt at extermination. Sorry, but I have to call False Analogy.

[2] Update: Glenn uses the phrases “radical feminism” and “extreme feminism” seemingly interchangeably. I follow her lead for convenience. Just note that in fact “radical feminism” in the actual historiography of feminism has a very specific, often variable, and now largely outdated meaning, which has little to do with what Glenn means by it (or most anti-feminists, who think they coined the phrase).

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  1. In her video, <I'm a Raging Feminist!!! (yes, with three exclamation points), it seems that Jaclyn thinks that anyone who willingly accepts the label of “Feminist” is in fact a fringe whacko feminist. This video precedes the ones you talk about, but it is also so full of straw-women that it could feed an elephant for a year. She also seems to be unaware that there are males who are feminists.

    As for The Cult of Dusty, I met Dusty at an atheist conference in South San Francisco in early 2013 (which you also attended, Richard) before I had ever heard of him. He gave a nice non-shouting speech and when I went to shake his hand he seemed to be a really good guy. I later found out his video schtick is as a spittle-flecked left-wing knock-off of Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, which I don’t much care for and thus haven’t seen too many of them. I assume he is only doing that for theatrical effect, and so I’d like to think that his anti-semitic “jokes” were off the top of his head, and not something he planned to do. Of course, the proper thing to do would be to hold off on releasing his videos for a day or two and then reviewing them in order to edit out stuff like that. Maybe he will try doing that someday.

    • You’re right, I have not watched that other video. [Until now. See discussion below.]

      And it’s entirely possible I met Dusty at that same conference and just didn’t know who he was or anything about him at the time.

      But I have to say calling his anti-Semitic jokes “off the top of his head, and not something he planned to do” is worse. Because it means anti-Semitic thoughts are so ingrained in his character that they are on the top of his head so as to pop off of it when unguarded or not thinking. Some people have suggested the reverse: that he says these things deliberately to get ratings, but the context in which he said them argues quite strongly against any such motive. In each case he was being a dick to people (sometimes Jews or the friends of Jews), and out came this stuff. And he never expresses remorse or embarrassment at it. To the contrary, he attacks anyone who calls it out as the disturbing shit that it is. That’s not encouraging to me. Anyone who thinks that stuff is funny (off the top of their head, or even just by pretense) kind of makes my skin crawl a little.

      Racism is like that. I’ll never forget one day I discovered my bosses, whom for over a year I thought were an awesome and fun couple and totally cool, were despicable racists (they asked me to get rid of a black family as a customer because they were black and they didn’t want to be in business with those types…yeah). All that time, I had no idea. I went cold every time I was ever in their presence again. I didn’t pursue any further friendship with them. And I was glad eventually to have gotten out of there. But I had to stay employed, so I had to endure them politely for months more. Thus, I didn’t say anything, for fear of unemployment, but I did do one thing: I just didn’t heed their request; I took the client.

      We have to realize this is what it is like. Almost all racists and misogynists hide it well. Possibly even to themselves. Until you see it come out. Then it strikes you cold. “Oh, but they’re just nice people, it’s just a little quirky flaw” doesn’t cut it as a valid excuse to remain their friends. “Oh shit how do I not become an agent of their racism without losing my job” may be a valid excuse to remain their silent employee, but it’s a social injustice that anyone has to be put in that position. And you still have no excuse to be their friends.

      I think what is needed is genuine expression of understanding how scary and disturbing to a lot of people humor like that is, and apologizing for not having understood it sooner. In other words, what is needed is acting like a compassionate person, not an unrepentant dick.

    • To the previous poster; Many people are just fine and polite in small doses, those need not show their true colors. My only interaction with the Cult of Dusty, was in attempt to connect with fellow atheists. I unfortunately experienced a large number of people highly involved in using crass words to put down people they deemed not as good as them, and being proudly unapologetic about that behavior, as well as too little people discussing anything that built anyone up, or discussed how to work with any myriad of negative things that deserve awareness/ action. That said, it was only my experience, and I left promptly.

    • Moarscienceplz, it would only seem that way if you didn’t watch her videos all the way through. She mentioned that when she sits down and talks with feminists she usually agrees with nearly everything they say, including Christina Rad. I think it is more likely that she was addressing a specific sub set of feminists…as she said.

    • Like who?

      That’s the very problem I am talking about.

      If you only mean some feminists, then identify them and address what they say. Don’t mention all of us feminists (everyone who supports the goals of Atheism Plus) as the ones you are attacking, and then claim, oh, no, I meant someone else.

      The fact is, everything she said is stock MRA rhetoric against all feminists (including the part about claiming only to be talking about radicals–and then implying all feminists are radicals). And that she doesn’t know that, makes her clueless. Disturbingly clueless.

  2. I didn’t find it that hard to follow. Essentially, she likes a lot of the ideals professed by Atheism Plus, but doesn’t like the methods used to promote them. Is this really that earth shattering?

    • It would have been great if she ever said even so much as that.

      But alas, she didn’t.

      That’s my point.

      Although even then it’s not enough. Which methods? Whose methods? What examples does she have in mind? What do they actually have to do with Atheism Plus as a whole, rather than some random fool defending it? Or some mistake someone actually corrected, or that’s totally correctable?

      Again, that some random fool defending atheism can be a racist, sexist, horrible bastard, doesn’t mean atheism is racist, sexist, and horrible…so if we accept that about atheism, why is it so hard to apply the same rule to Atheism Plus? Or feminism for that matter?

      None of these questions can be answered if a critic won’t point to any real examples of what’s gone wrong that they’d like to fix. It makes even less sense to say there are problems (but not what they are) and then express no interest in fixing them.

      As again I explain in detail in the article above.

      So every point in my article stands.

    • Yet both are fixable.

      For myself, I won’t speculate as to which is to blame here, or in what proportion (since it can be a mix of both).

      From all else I’ve seen of her, I would like to think she is conscientious. Which is in conflict with being lazy when one’s laziness is starting to cause harm. So cognitive dissonance might turn her around; since I believe if she had two values in conflict, laziness and conscientiousness, she would pick the latter as the one to identify with and own up to.

    • It depends on what you mean. If you mean in respect to using the label of themselves, I don’t know–it hasn’t been very useful so it’s fallen mostly into disuse. Greta Christina, Jen McCreight, Alex Gabriel, and myself are the ones who maybe on occasion still use it.

      If you mean in respect to the values and thus the actual movement the label was coined to describe (see my recent publications cited in the article above on this point), then that would be nearly everyone writing at FtB and Skepchick (which is why we were both singled out by probably MRA hackers for a DDOS attack this year). Plus many people beyond (e.g. Adam Lee). Because tons of people just don’t like or use the label, but are our staunch allies in the field.

      Beyond that, in my experience, the clear majority of everyone I’ve spoken alongside at conferences the last two years, for example, are likewise allies; along with the clear majority of nearly every local group (community and campus) I’ve spoken to, across the US and Canada (and the few groups I’ve hung out with in the UK besides). I’ve only had the reverse experience with the (non-campus) atheist community in Las Vegas, and certain groups in New York, although that was years ago and it may have since changed. (And of course TAM/JREF seems to have become the preferred venue of anti-feminists and anti-A+ers, whether JREF’s fault or not, but that’s a whole separate matter.)

    • Remember that her friends are people like Dawkins and The Amazing Atheist. The company she keeps is not the best. So she can easily have been fed this stuff by friends, lovers, acquaintances, and of course just trusts them, without thinking to check whether what they are saying actually jives with reality.

      For example, I link in the article above to Rad’s video on Patriarchy theory; it’s obvious Glenn has not seen it, or had not at the time of the video you are referring to; I say more on the subject in my essay on the MRA movement, just search the word there. I’m willing to bet Glenn has never heard any of that and doesn’t know about it. She only knows what some other people are telling her. And doesn’t check.

    • It’s the same with the rest of that video: she alludes to the trope that Elevatorgate was about a harassment claim, which shows she hasn’t actually looked into that, or seen Watson’s original video, and thus hasn’t realized she never said anything about harassment (much less any discussion of “patriarchy”) and that in fact what she did say was totally innocuous; someone else is feeding her information (i.e. lying to her). Likewise across the board (e.g. the “door holding” complaint, which is an MRA myth, just like the “picking up the check” myth). Likewise her equation of actual radfem misandrist views of sex and almost all feminists alive (a lot of whom are polyamorists, kink, or current or retired sex workers fighting for sex work legalization and sex worker rights, and thus hardly share such silly notions that all sex is rape). And so on.

      Someone is feeding her this stuff. And she is just cluelessly believing it. Instead of checking and discovering that these are all MRA lies.

  3. Thanks for this summary, Richard. I have to confess, even at your urging I have failed as of yet to watch the video. Sigh. Maybe I’ll have stomach for it tomorrow.

    I just wanted to comment that in your post, you follow the MRA line of conflating radical feminism with extreme atheism, when in fact radical feminism is a thing with a definition of its own that is not necessarily “extreme” (in the sense that supporters of current feminism might object to). I’m not an expert in feminist theory, but from my understanding, current (Third Wave and later) feminism could be thought of as a more mature, intersectional, but still radical feminism (i.e. in the sense of wanting to eliminate the root of patriarchal oppression). Extreme perhaps when speaking of the amount of change we want to see (i.e. for many, the idea of tearing down gender essentialism is pretty extreme), but not extreme in the sense of hating men or sex or trans women.

    Of course, this is somewhat tangential to Glenn’s position which is, I think, that feminism is past its sell by date because we have the franchise after all and advocating for any changes to society at large is just whining and glorying in victimhood. The status quo is just fine (unless some man or other is being bothered). In other words, I think she sounds like she’s parroting MRA propaganda because she’s one of them.

    • Oh yes, that’s a very good point. Thanks for adding that.

      Most people don’t know about and thus don’t use the word radical feminism in any of its technical senses (which are many; e.g. wikipedia gives a fairly different and confused account than university gender studies courses).

      When I use the term I mean what the abusers of the term mean, i.e. I’m talking about what they mean. I don’t intend to endorse that as an accurate account of feminist historiography, however.

    • Your acceptance of their misuse of the term makes me feel as though actual radical feminists, and especially the heroes and “foot soldiers” (like my mother) of the Second Wave, are being thrown under the bus. I realize that’s not your intention, but please keep it in mind.

      (*Just realized I said extreme atheism in my original comment when I meant to say extreme feminism; I hope that wasn’t too confusing for anyone. I think I was thinking about how detractors call all atheists who are criticizing religion “militant atheists” and how annoying that is because we’re not throwing bombs or shooting up churches. In that case though, there isn’t a whole historical movement of militant atheists to whom we owe so much that might be insulted at always being pulled out and stuffed with straw whenever someone disagrees with a billboard or establishment clause lawsuit.)

    • Note I’m not endorsing their use, I’m responding to it, i.e. Glenn is not accusing Atheism+ advocates in her description of the Drama video of holding to a particular kind of second wave feminist theory. It would make no sense for me to treat her as using the word in that sense. It’s not what she means by it. So when I discuss what she means by it, I have to discuss what she means by it.

  4. I read your whole post, and it seems quite accurate and not exaggerated. I’ve only watched the J. Glenn vid with “Pussies” in the title and not her other work. I’ve read the posts by a few FtB bloggers and gone down the length of some of those comment threads.

    Her video was vague and fairly empty, but not nearly as bad as I imagined it could be (based on following these arguments for a long time.) I didn’t find it at all persuasive.

    I do dislike it when people complain in a very general, hand-wave-y way. I think it is helpful to have exact quotes and links that let people see the whole context. I think videos are poorly suited to the kind of communication that works past misunderstanding and leads to shared insight. (Heck, I wish commenters on all of the Freethought blogs would quote more and paraphrase less. And I wish people who speak through video would provide transcripts.)

    And now I’m going to toss logic to the winds and dive into feelings and talk about this:

    Glenn then goes on to repeat the overworn trope of everyone who has ever been criticized since ever: “Couldn’t you have just called me first?” Advice she then has never once followed herself (at least in this fiasco). Which fits the trope, because everyone who has ever said that, also has never actually done it. DJ Grothe could have called Rebecca Watson before blaming her for something she wasn’t at fault for. When he got pwned for this, his complaint? “My critics should have called me first.” Ron Lindsay could have spoken to some feminists first about some of his concerns before telling an audience of feminists about his completely uninformed concerns. When he got pwned for this, his complaint? “My critics should have called me first.” Jaclyn Glenn doesn’t call the people she criticizes before criticizing them. Why does she expect the people she criticizes to then call her before criticizing her back?

    I understand why she would find a lot of public criticism upsetting, even though you’ve made the double-standard pretty clear. (In the video I watched, JG didn’t name names, so she might feel her vagueness was a polite gesture. YMMV.)

    My gut feeling about rules for human interaction is that “criticize in private” is what we do when we have a relationship with someone that we want to preserve. Direct public opposition tends to be what we do to people that we are fighting, maybe even people that we want to crush. Public criticism that gets linked and tweeted and repeated is really strong stuff. (I appreciate that you made limited, supportable claims and didn’t get speculative or personal. Not every commenter on every post was that considerate.)

    Large criticism or widespread criticism can be pretty crushing. I might rather see it as a last resort for terrible people. I think it’s best used when we really want to blow up the bridge that crosses the chasm of differences. (Different opinions.)

    So, even though I myself support A+, and I JG’s ‘arguments’ don’t impress me, I personally don’t find her reprehensible or deserving of substantial public scorn. (Thousands of page views and scores of comments across FtB is a weighty amount of criticism.)

    • Her video was vague and fairly empty, but not nearly as bad as I imagined it could be

      Her ealier video (preceding all these) is all the bad you imagined it could be.

      I personally don’t find her reprehensible or deserving of substantial public scorn.

      I agree. I would say worry, not scorn.

      But if after all this she doubles down on MRA ideology, explicitly, then…

    • “weighty amount of criticism” =/= “public scorn”

      I certainly agree that harassment and things like abusive racist/sexist/etc… epithets should not be tolerated. Mean-spirited insults and personal attacks are inappropriate. However, widespread pulblic criticism, and even mocking, of her very inept and ignorant arguments should be expected and encouraged. She made a publicly posted video with appallingly awful arguments. That video was “linked and tweeted and repeated”, publicly. The responses and criticisms were spread the same way. The public criticisms are completely appropriate, and frankly, should be expected by anyone making public arguments online. Also, most of the people criticizing her probably don’t even have a personal relationship with her. Both Glenn’s arguments and those of most of her critics will inevitably take place publicly, and rightly so.

  5. Richard Carrier is perpetrating a bit of historical revisionism here.

    Atheism+ was never originally about “[uniting] atheism, humanism, and skepticism.”

    It was an attempt to deal with the rampant sexism in the atheist community. Atheism+ was meant to be a safe space for women, and more broadly, minorities and the disenfranchised.

    It might be a side-note to the larger blog, but it’s such an important issue that to get it wrong is a bit alarming, and I think, deserves to be corrected.

    • That’s the revisionism, I’m afraid.

      “Honestly, I see A+ as Atheism + Humanism + Skepticism.”
      Jen McCreight (20 August 2012)

      In my original post I discussed several other issues than sexism, and specifically demarcated humanist values. McCreight did as well. (Both she and I wrote about explicitly how humanism and skepticism integration were the point: see here and here.)

      McCreight’s earliest summary read:

      Atheists plus we care about social justice,
      Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
      Atheists plus we protest racism,
      Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
      Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

      Note how women’s issues is buried in there as a single item. Everyone pointed out she was describing humanism. She agreed.

      It’s the enemies of A+ who made it all about the feminist stuff. They are the ones rewriting history–and in doing so, creating the very thing they opposed: forcing us to spend most of our time defending women and women’s issues against their attacks. Had it not been for them, we could have spent that time on other things.

      The “safe spaces” online goal simply concluded in the A+ forums. But that was only one goal of a great many, e.g. making atheist orgs more responsive to the disabled; racially integrating the movement; etc. For example, see one of my assessments of our successes here. All inspired by the active work of Jen McCreight under the A+ banner.

    • Here’s Jen:

      It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

      (emphasis added to show that the very first* articulation of the A+ idea had all three elements)

      *which wasn’t formulated in a vacuum; PZ had been talking about a progressive, humanist atheism as a counter to ‘dictionary atheism’ before that, for just one example. Pteryxx came up with the term A+ in the second comment to that post.

    • Right. As I explain in my AACon talk (and thus in the transcript now linked above), A+ was actually a thing for several years before anyone named it. And it will remain a thing even if it goes back to being unnamed.

    • The Atheism+ forums specifically were engineered to be a safe space (I was a mod there for some time) but, as Richard explains, the idea of Atheism+ as a movement absolutely was about uniting atheism, humanism and skepticism. In fact, IIRC the forum header even says something very much to that effect.

  6. If you mean in respect to using the label of themselves, I don’t know–it hasn’t been very useful so it’s fallen mostly into disuse. Greta Christina, Jen McCreight, Alex Gabriel, and myself are the ones who maybe on occasion still use it.

    Just to clarify, I’m in your first camp: never called myself A+ because it’s not a label I ever connected to. Thanks for the links!

    • Right, but you at least talk about it, sympathetically, as a thing. Lots of people don’t even do that. (Which is fine, certainly if they are still pursuing or approving its goals under any other banner.)

  7. I’m not really sure how to feel about Glenn with regard to what’s at the core of her repeated failures – is she malicious, is she cynically jumping on the anti-feminist bandwagon or is she just plain lazy and ignorant/unaware of the landscape she’s presuming to comment on? A combination would seem likely; you’d have to be in a cave not to notice how popular you get if you slag off feminists – and especially if you’re an atheist who does so (and an attractive female atheist who does so is like an MRAtheist’s perfect storm) – and the anti-fems in general display a malignorance™ that’s hard to define. It’s creationist-level: it doesn’t actually matter how many times the difference between common or garden feminism and radical feminism is; they’ve already decided what they believe and dogma takes precedence over facts. Glenn appears to be nice and far that road and as long as she gets the approval and the retweets from Monsignor Dawkins I see no reason she’ll change.

    I unsubscribed around the time Glenn first demonstrated how out of her depth she can be when trying to mix it with grownups. I might’ve done so anyway even if she didn’t join the chorus of people eager to display how much they hate things they clearly don’t understand; her gushing, hyperactive tirades are sophomoric, just plain grating and she can barely hold her own against infamously stupid apologist, lying little shite and poster-boy for low-hanging youtube fruit, VenomfangX.

  8. Coming from a Jewish background, I also feel like the Holocaust has gone from a legitimate tragedy worth remembering and mourning to one of many tools being used in propaganda to justify what’s going on in the Middle East. (I should note that I feel very much the same about 9/11 and how it’s being used by the US to justify our own war crimes.) So I can sympathize with the point that far… but no further than that, and I’ve seen Dusty’s further attempts at explanation that really show he is, indeed, an anti-Jewish bigot.

    As for Glenn… I’m getting really sick of YouTube in general. I can count the number of YouTube atheists who are actually good on my hands… and that sucks, especially because the YouTube Atheist community is really where I got my start. Hell… the first atheist YouTube series I ever watched was “Why do People Laugh at Creationists”. And the first real atheist… drama?… I ever participated in was the whole VenomFangX fiasco. I loved Thunderf00t, and The Amazing Atheist, and Peach, and oh so many others who have become so fucking disappointing.

    I’m still a fan of Richard Coughlan, but with caveats.

    At first, I really liked Glenn. Not to be all hipster about it, but I started watching Glenn before PZ posted a video of hers with approval. I found her videos by accident and I loved the way she went after creationists. I’m still an antitheist, so whenever people really bash religion, I tend to eat that shit up. After all… I still believe that humanity can’t move forward without getting rid of faith… I still consider it a bug, not a feature, of the human condition.

    But then she jumped on this train and became yet another fucking disappointment. I just don’t get it.

    Like you, I hope she actually does some research and realizes where she went wrong, but… I’m also a grade-A cynic and misanthrope, so…

  9. Richard,
    You said: “when both parents are otherwise equally fit and asking for custody, child custody cases are most typically decided in favor of which parent has been devoting the most time to the care of the child, regardless of whether it’s the father or the mother.”

    I’m wondering what is the case before the child is of a certain age, such as infancy, when the child is usually heavily dependent on the mother for breast feeding and such. Because then it would not be fair to claim that the woman is “more caring” therefore she should receive the custody when at that point it would be biological: the child has been inside the mother for 9 month and we know that the child is more responsive at that age to the mother (such as recognize her smell and voice etc), provided that she didn’t abandon the child at birth, so the father would be at a disadvantage regardless.

    thanks for any response.

    • I’m wondering what is the case before the child is of a certain age, such as infancy, when the child is usually heavily dependent on the mother for breast feeding and such.

      Doesn’t show up in the statistics I referenced. The frequency of that occurring is relatively too rare (i.e. most divorces by far occur with older children). You’d have to do a specific focused study on just that extremely small subset of the class to know how they tend to be decided when equiter paribus.

      (Of course, babies have ceased being dependent on mother’s milk for ages now. And joint custody is a thing. As is provisional custody, e.g. custody can start with the mother and switch to the father after weaning. The evidence appears to show that there has been no consistent awarding of babies to mothers on these grounds; it’s a factor but not alone decisive; the argument is sometimes used successfully, sometimes not. But that’s not helpful if you want to know proportions or trends.)

  10. Just to clarify: I’ve never called her a “cute girl”. I don’t think I’ve commented on her appearance at all. I have a grand total of 3 posts that discuss her videos, and in not a one do I say anything about how she looks. Way back in August of 2013 when I first noticed her, I said Jaclyn Glenn is smarter than Ray Comfort, which I still think is true, but it is a low bar to hurdle. Every time I’ve mentioned her it is to discuss the quality of her arguments, which have taken a nosedive since the time I saw her arguing against creationism.

  11. The post was too long and over analyzed. Perhaps you could edit about 80% and still make all of your valid points.

  12. I find it ironic that anti feminist vlogs are actually good evidence that we still need feminism. All one has to do is watch some of these anti feminist vlogs and then read the hate and vitriol expressed in the comments to realize we have a long way to go.

    I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist but it seems to me that there must be some condition that people like TAA and TF have that make them act the way they do. Neurosis maybe? I watched one recently with both of them playing clips of Rebecca Watson and commenting on them. They often implied she meant things that no reasonable person could think she meant. They were so out there they played a clip paused it, then implied she was about to say something ridiculous and absurd then continued the clip and she didn’t say anything like they suggested. I mean had they not watched the clips before they played them? Clearly this video was about deriding Rebecca and nothing more. It didn’t address anything she actually said.

    I think you are on to something when you talk about defensiveness. It is something many of us have to work to overcome. Some people have it to such an extreme that they will defend anything they have ever said without questioning themselves.

  13. Such brilliance, Richard. You’re a Klein bottle you are. Or do I mean a Möbius strip? Not having a PhD, like your renowned self, I can never keep them straight.

    Here I always thought that the approximately 3000 radiant wizards at the now moribund A+ BBS and the new Atheism Plus Blogs were actual, real life A plussers, when all along it was really Richard, and Jen: foole me; foole me.

    Intellectual artillery to the fore!

  14. Richard, that might be one characterization of Atheism+, but I don’t think it represents the reason Atheism+ came to exist. At best, it’s a retrospective broadening of the justification for atheism+.

    Here’s the moment that birthed Atheism+:

    “…But Boobquake made me wake up. What I originally envisioned as an empowering event about supporting women’s freedoms and calling out dangerous superstitious thinking devolved into “Show us your tits!” I received sexual invitations from strangers around the country. When I appeared or spoke at atheist events, there was always a flood of comments about my chest and appearance. I’ve been repeatedly told I can never speak out against people objectifying or sexually harassing me because a joke about my boobs was eternal “consent.”

    So I started speaking up about dirty issues like feminism and diversity and social justice because I thought messages like “please stop sexually harassing me” would be simple for skeptics and rationalists. But I was naive. Like clockwork, every post on feminism devolved into hundreds of comments accusing me being a man-hating, castrating, humorless, ugly, overreacting harpy. Despite the crap I received, I continued to publicly support these movements and stress that the haters were just a tiny minority. I thought this flood of sexism I had never experienced before was just a consequence of me growing up and heading out into the real world, and had nothing to do with these movements in particular. I can’t count how many times I publicly stressed that the atheist/skeptical movement, while not perfect, is still a safer place for women and other minorities.

    But now I recognize that I was trying to convince myself that this is true.

    I don’t feel safe as a woman in this community – and I feel less safe than I do as a woman in science, or a woman in gaming, or hell, as a woman walking down the fucking sidewalk. People shat themselves with rage at the suggestion that cons should have anti-sexual harassment policies. DJ Grothe, president of JREF, blamed those evil feminist bloggers for TAM’s female attendance problem instead of trying to fix what’s scaring women away (and then blocked me on Twitter and unfriended me on Facebook for good measure). A 15 year old girl posted a photo of herself holding a Carl Sagan book to r/atheism and got a flood of rape jokes in return. The Amazing Atheist purposefully tried to trigger a rape survivor. Paula Kirby decided we’re all feminazis and femistasis. I’ve become used to being called a cunt or having people threaten to contact my employers because a feminist can’t be a good scientist. Rebecca Watson is still receiving constant rape and death threats a year after she said “Guys, don’t do that.” And mentioning her name is a Beetlejuice-like trigger for a new torrent of hate mail.

    Groups of people are obsessively devoted to slandering Freethought Blogs as a whole because many of us have feminist leanings. They photoshop things to try to humiliate us, they gain unauthorized access to our private email listserv. And anyone associated with us feminists are fair game. People have tried to destroy Surly Amy’s business, and Justin Vacula has publicly posted her home address with a photo. One blogger who describes their blog as “rejecting the watson/myers doctrine” ridiculed skeptical teen activist (and feminist ally) Rhys Morgan for flunking his exams because he had severe physical and mental illnesses.

    I now realize I was never truly welcome in this movement. I just managed to unwittingly sneak in before I opened my big fat feminist mouth.”

    – Also Jen McCreight. Also August 2012.

    ” + humanism + skepticism” doesn’t entail the rejection of sexism, misogyny, and the objectification of women. As such it’s something of a mistake to characterize it as such, and ignore the real reason atheism+ came to be.

    • Richard, that might be one characterization of Atheism+, but I don’t think it represents the reason Atheism+ came to exist. At best, it’s a retrospective broadening of the justification for atheism+.

      How can it be retrospective when its actually in the founding documents of Atheism+?

      You are kicking against the goad of very clear historical evidence here.

      Even in the article you quote, Jen says that’s what got her thinking about all the under-represented interests in atheism (not just women), and the importance of applying skepticism to everything (not just what SkepticsTM wanted). And that lots of us were already doing both.

      Then someone suggested she name this.

      Then her next article was about the name and what she meant that name to refer to. And there she is even more explicit (as I quoted). And when someone asked her what she meant, she said she meant atheism+humanism+skepticism (as I quoted).

      That’s the actual history of A+.

      The pushback from people on the sexism issue is what drove that juggernaut, and subsequently forced all conversations about A+ to be dominated by that, which actually very much annoyed Jen, because it meant a lot else she was advocating seemed to be thrown under the bus (like serving the interests of the disabled better, for example).

      ” + humanism + skepticism” doesn’t entail the rejection of sexism, misogyny, and the objectification of women.

      Actually, it does. As Jen explained when she said that’s what A+ was; and as I explained in my AACon talk about A+. If you claim to be a humanist and not a feminist or against sexism, misogyny, and the objectification of women, then you aren’t really a humanist. Like someone who claims to be all about liberty, advocating taking people’s rights away…you aren’t really “all about” liberty. “We had to destroy the village to save it” does not make you a savior, but a destroyer. Talking the talk doesn’t cut it. You have to walk the walk. And that has been Jen’s argument from day one on this. She deserves credit for that, and I don’t want to see that get thrown under the rug of history.

  15. You don’t have to publish this, but if you felt my comment was perhaps teetering on anti-semitism, I’m very sorry. I certainly didn’t mean it and Judaism is actually one of my favorite cultures (my dad is actually the Hazan at Dix Hills Jewish Center). I still consider myself a Jew (though an atheist and antitheist). Feel free to delete that part of my comment if you want.

  16. I think you’ve nailed what bothers me about her (beside her anti-feminist position). I was subscribed to her channel for a while, and she definitely made me laugh a lot. But she often made generalizations and didn’t get to much nuance into her arguments. One that stuck out was one titled “Agnostics ARE Atheists”, in which she tries to explain something that very few theists get, the fact that atheism and agnosticism aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m glad she made a video on this, but she explained things terribly. She eventually states “atheists ARE agnostics and agnostics ARE atheists”, then says some agnostics can be Christians too, then goes on to say that all Christians are agnostics except the ones who say they have all the facts. It’s confusing language, along with imprecise and even incorrect definitions and explanations. I would never share the video with someone who doesn’t get the theist/atheist dichotomy with agnosticism, cause it’s too confusing.

    Same thing here. She muddies the waters of feminism and goes on to align herself with The Amazing Atheist’s anti-feminist BS. When she made her video on Elliot Rodger I realized I’d had enough of it and unsubscribed.

  17. Feminism=social justice=awful tumblr children who deserve scorn and contempt

    haven’t you heard the news yet? Why are y’all so irrational? EVEN 4CHAN KNOWS THE ZEITGEIST BETTER THAN YOU WOW.

    /sarcasm

  18. While I agree with the goals that many feminist support, and for the sack of convenience I can even use the term feminist as a way to show my support of those goals, I am hesitant to see the word feminist as the best word that could be used to describe what’s being fought for here. Which is a society that recognizes that people should not be judged by who they are, nor should we class individuals into preconceived stereotypes. Basically, I think we need a better title that reflects what’s being argued for here. I think Evid3nc3 put it best in his article on feminism.

    http://evid3nc3.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/why-i-am-not-a-feminist/

    • You might want to be aware this is part of MRA rhetoric. There is a widespread set of standard ways that argument is used by them, far beyond the example you link to. It has a disturbing history. And it’s also baloney. Most feminists, by far, are not seeking female dominance over men, but parity; and there really aren’t “contexts in modern society” in which “the balance of power leans towards women” (every example they might name, are actually examples of parity, which sexist men complain about because it means they no longer have an advantage: equality is always portrayed as oppression by the former oppressor; hence Christians claiming that legally recognizing gay marriage is taking away their rights).

      Meanwhile, trying to get people to stop using a word is a tactic: if you prevent people from identifying as a thing, you undermine their ability to network and find allies and rally to the cause. It’s a way to undermine the legitimate goals of feminists: by tricking people into thinking it’s a bad word, so no one uses it, and thus we have a mess of individuals isolated and disorganized, instead of a unified and unifying movement toward a common cause that can be efficiently communicated by having a recognizable name. Trying to control what people call themselves has always been a method of micro-imperialism. This is why Christians try so hard to argue “good” atheists should call themselves “agnostics,” and simultaneously try to argue atheism “really” means Marxism and nihilism and arrogance. If they control the words, they gain an effective advantage in the culture was. So we don’t let them control the words. They don’t get to tell us what to call ourselves. The same holds for feminism. Specious tactics like the one you point to are not credible or commendable. They are just part of the attempt to undermine genuinely bringing parity between the genders.

      People who actually want gender parity don’t care what its called. It’s the people who care what it’s called that are probably sexists…because they are “offended” by the fact that women thought of this first, and named it after themselves, because they were the ones most disadvantaged and thus most in need of rectifying equal status. To be so bothered by a girly word that you think the name is unfair, is just another tell for sexism. The same people will flip their lid at the suggestion that we stop using the masculine as the norm in pronouns and abstract plurals–because women should just get over it. But they can’t get over it, when the shoe is on the other foot. And they don’t get the irony.

  19. Richard, you have an interesting take on feminism and MRA that I’m quite skeptical of. Do you think sexist females exist? If so, what does their behavior entail. From what I’ve seen, I’m skeptical of modern day feminism, yet I come on here to read you think of someone like me in a negative light. Or at least your experiences with other would lead you to believe that. Gender parity as you would call it, is a two way street. I’m sure you are aware of all the imbalances, and not just those that effect one gender.

    • If you are skeptical of all “modern day” feminism, you cannot possibly be very widely read in modern feminist authors (like Christina, Marcotte, Watson). I don’t think you actually know what “modern feminism” is. You are thus either an anti-feminist…or in the category of the ignorant. The cure for which is learning.

      As to sexist women, sure they exist. So what. Tu Quoque is a fallacy. (BTW, please don’t continue using the Ferengi-sounding “feeeemaaaales” to refer to women like this…it’s an MRA practice).

  20. Point taken, I didn’t think of it in that way. I will only say that it saddens me that the MRA has taken to such a anti-feminist perspective because we do have things that are genuinely a problem in this society. In America, the stereotype that if you like having conversations and communicating, don’t like football or NASCAR, and don’t drink beer, especially while doing so, then your not a man.

    • To be fair, that stereotype is also isolated culturally, and becoming dated. Lots of large American sub-cultures (indeed, most of liberal-voting America, which is increasing in dominance) do not share that concept of manhood.

  21. It’s quite humorous the way freethoughtbloggers throw the phrase “MRA” around as a term of abuse, much like McCarthy threw out “communist” for everyone he didn’t like. Thus Elliot Roger typifies an MRA, typical Rush Limbaugh like castigate a group by one example tactic.

    I’m not an MRA, so I decided to actually watch videos from a real life honest to god representative of the MRA viewpoint- Karen Straughan, Agree or disagree I found her cogent, intelligent, and using reason and evidence to present her point of view. But oh well, bogeymen and strawmen are much more useful in promoting a radical ideology. Eric Hoffer wrote about these dynamics well in “The True Believer.” Basically the true definition of MRA in freethoughblog speak is anyone who disagrees in the slightest with their form of radical feminist ideology.

    • Yikes. That’s how you do research? Check one person, and not even do that properly?

      You are acting like a Christian Creationist. Try a little harder. Pat Condell went to the website of a violent racist gang (the EDL) and concluded because they said nothing racist or violency on their website, that therefore they are totes cool (links in the article above). You did the same thing. Only worse, because you then generalized to the entire MRA movement from a single biased, un-fact-checked sample of a single proponent.

      Try doing this properly. Search for her name at We Hunted the Mammoth and read everything that comes up. And consult this example to see how to do a proper fact check of someone like this (that example also exposes her methods of misinforming people–which you won’t know, if you don’t check her facts).

      The reality of the MRA movement is this (see extensive hyperlinks documenting extensive evidence therein).

  22. I’m not an expert on MRA. I just here the term and I react instinctively to terms of abuse. But step back in principle wouldn’t you agree in principle if women have rights, men should have rights too – hence MRA. Without getting into specifics wouldn’t a rational worldview demand that injustices suffered by men deserve redress just as much as injustices suffered by women. Isn’t it a bit one sided to suggest that only women are oppressed? And it doesn’t have to be men oppressing women or women oppressing men, it can be social and cultural structures that cause types of oppression for both sexes. For example, Straughan presents the case that women receive a disproportionate amount of the benefits of the social welfare state relative to men, and productivity in the workplace, men produce a higher percentage of goods and services. Women are also much more likely to gain disproportionately child custody and alimony in divorce cases in the US. She makes the case that women have historically not born the burden of being in war or had the sole burden of caring for their families legally. Straughan presents many other examples. So arguably, there could be areas where women benefit disproportionally to men. Also many feminists don’t question is there a rationale for patriarchal societies. Could it be that these structures were more efficient in a preindustrial age than a matriarchal or egalitarian structure where manual labor. I don’t know. These facts can be disputed as can the logic. If many MRA’s are complete asshats, it doesn’t logically follow that a rational worldview shouldn’t take into account rights of men and women, as well as historical injustices suffered by both men and women. So isn’t it possible in principle for a person to be some sort of MRA as a person can be a feminist? As a rational person and a skeptic isn’t there an imperative to examine all these things when forming a worldview and finding ways to make a better society.

    • Read my article I linked you to on men’s rights issues. The whole thing. You apparently have not. If you had, you’d know I already answered all these things there.

  23. As a quick aside checked out the Straughan posts on Who Hunted the Mammoth. Typical hit pieces but nothing particularly damning in any way, noticeably lacking a sense of humor and serious lack of engagement of her actual arguments, which is to be expected. I agree someone like Stefan Molyneux is an utterly simplistic pompous sexist prick, but that’s not saying much. Case not proven.

  24. So you think Straughan uses strawmen to illustrate a point. Again I’m not an MRA, didn’t know what it the term even meant till a couple of weeks ago when I ran into the term repeatedly on Freethoughtblogs. So Freethoughtblogs doesn’t use strawman tactics when it’s convenient. Freethoughblogs just did that recently in a number of posts making Elliot Rodger a strawman for a typical MRA member, which is interesting since he had virtually nothing to do with the MRA movement. But it also is a case study in the some of the radical views typified by Freethoughblogs. Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree, typical of a country awash in guns, and PZ Myers instinctively posted that he was “a severely mentally disturbed individual.” Later due to backlash from commentators, following Jaclyn Glenn’s video and Christina Rad’s response, the new narrative from PZ Myers was her response “pins down a lot of my difficulties with the “He’s Crazy!” brigade,” not seeming to notice the irony that this was a direct contradiction to his initial instincts. You parroted and echoed the same sentiments that his actions had to be due to radicalization of views from a misogynistic culture and mental illness didn’t part in it. Previously posts on multiple shooters from Jared Lee Loughner and Adam Lanza from both bloggers and commentators evoked no need to question the role of mental illness as a component in the shootings; it was pretty much accepted as axiomatic. Outside psychologists had no problem expressing their opinion that mental illness was a component with Roger as well as other shooters involved in mass shootings. This is backed up by studies such as the Florida Fusion study which identified mental illness implicated in 79% of recent mass shooters. Reading Rogers so called manifesto, plus a history of treatment, concern from his family lends credence to the notion that mental illness was a very prominent causal factor to his actions.

    But in this case for some reason positing mental illness as a component was a case of ableism, a convenient non sequitur since it served a second purpose of pointing out the cultural ‘othering’ of the mentally disabled. The point isn’t that mental illness was a primary cause, perhaps it wasn’t, but at least my reading of the consensus responses of health professionals was that mental illness was a component, so thinking that mental illness was a component has nothing to do with ableism, just a common sense inference based on a long history of past experience. But the Freethoughtblog bloggers and commentators insisted that it could only be due to cultural misogyny, the theory I guess that Roger was radicalized by reading MRA sites in Jihadist style, and a common misogynistic culture, though no evidence for either was given save radical feminist ideology where these are simply axiomatic truths. It was extremely amusing reading comment after comment mocking the notion of how terrible it is to assume without evidence that mental illness was involved, when they were doing the exact same thing in the assumption that cultural misogyny could be the one and only true cause. Group dynamics led to a fever pitch of furor reminiscent of any cult (as an aside the recent Richard Dawkins furor about his twitter comments, lead to a familiar refrain “Richard Fucking Dawkins,” which must raise some peoples self esteem in the saying I guess). It was easier to mock Jaclyn Glenn for her clumsy use of the word “madman” I guess. Anyway this is how outsiders see the situation, use non sequiturs to explain away things that don’t fit a particular narrative, in this case an ideology of rape culture, misogyny and the dominance of male patriarchy. I could provide many other examples but you get the point. You can point out the supposed use of strawmen, so can I.

    • I’m sorry, I am not getting your point.

      Saying Elliott Roger was mentally I’ll is ableism, therefore GirlSaysWhat is not an unreliable source of information?

      I am having a hard time even counting the non sequiturs there. You aren’t making any sense. Try fewer words, and clearer reasoning.

  25. No reply or attempt at engagement as expected with any opinions you disagree with outside the echo chamber. Whatever. But not surprising given your history based on a little research on online sources including your blog. You apparently:

    (i) are a former Taoist Big Bang denialist,

    (ii) who was taken to task for his McCarthy reminiscent “C.H.U.D./we will disown you” comments by a popular You Tuber named Thunderf00t (aside – apparently Thunderf00t was ousted from Freethoughtblogs in an overt politically manipulative way– which I take from a reasonable assessment of both sides of the account), Thunderf00t publicly called this out on a YouTube video which resulted in an online challenge to view both yours and Thunderf00t’s video to see who is right, resulting in the assessment of a decisive victory for Thunderf00t based on up/down comments on YouTube,

    (iii) a person publicly upset, filled with ire and obsessed with a prominent scholar Bart Ehrman’s refusal to review and engage your Jesus Myth theories (or any prominent scholar engagement to the point that you review Amazon commentary) according to your own long winded detailed multiple blog posts on the subject, yet in a debate with none other than the infamous William Lane Craig, you were embarrassed, seemed ill prepared given that his tactics and shtick are so well known so should have known better and as such, decisively lost according to consensus online opinion,

    (iv) yet your Jesus Myth theories derive almost exclusively (prettied up with a little Bayesian analysis) from Earl Doherty acknowledged as the actual real pioneer in Jesus Myth studies (aside – agreed – Doherty’s theory has a lot going for it – really enjoyed his book),

    (v) while whining about not being taken seriously in certain cases, yet when views are taken seriously in other cases publically refuse to engage and address actual valid criticism when no good response exists – for example Massimo Pigliucci’s two post utter demolition of your scientistic quasi- Harris/ Shermer hyper simplistic content less views of morality lacking perspective on the long history of philosophical dialogue on morality starting with the pre-Socratics onto the present day, resulting in smug anti-intellectual know-it-all declarations about morality with little to no real world practical validity,

    (vi) a key advocate of the so-called Atheism Plus movement which besides having other interesting flaws (example – absence of evident use of the term by its advocates = evidence of absence of identifying with the term (or very conspicuously hush hush about it all the time) even by supposed advocates –i.e. it apparently has been an unacknowledged colossal embarrassment to the creators; other words already exist for the same sorts of things – e.g. secular humanism that don’t have the divisive connotations of good vs. bad atheists so why invent new words; makes even the silly term “brights” look good by comparison) makes a giant category mistake confusing reality – atheism – there is no god, with social advocacy, since atheism remains true in empty space, black holes, the Vatican, tea party rallies, radical feminist dialog, anywhere etc. – it is independent of advocacy of any kind,

    (vii) have a penchant to write bombastic repetitive pretentious and petty diatribes sprinkled with pop psychology based on speculated motives to make moral or ideological points at the expense of people like Jaclyn Glenn, Bart Ehrman, Michael Shermer, and Thunderf00t emphasizing your intellectual and moral superiority, but come off as one sided exaggerated hit pieces.

    Anyway, just some simple observations to take or leave, don’t need Bayesian analysis to predict which you’ll choose.

    Cheers.

    • Wow. You are like a fundamentalist Christian. I am persuaded by scientific evidence the Big Bang theory actually is true, and you count that a negative. I am persuaded by scientific evidence Taoism is false, and you count that a negative.

      Considering what you count as a negative, it all has one thing in common: being persuaded by evidence that you are wrong.

      So you just told me you can never be persuaded by evidence that you are wrong. Because you think anyone who does that is bad.

      Which means: you will be stuck in your delusions forever.

      Bad SkepticTM.

      The rest of your irrational diatribe is equally embarrassing. I called people who joke about raping a teenaged girl on her own thread CHUDS and Thunderf00t defended *them*…and you side with Thunderf00t. What a horrid person you are. You think truth is decided by vote (upvotes in this case). Rather than facts and reason. But sadly, you are saying because more people up voted joking about raping a girl on her own thread, that it’s totes cool to joke about raping a girl on her own thread. By that logic, if more people vote to kill the Jews than against, you’ll totes side with the upvotes. Guess who you would thus have been in 1939 Germany.

      Meanwhile, I thoroughly acknowledge I am revising and defending the Doherty Thesis in my book. I suppose by your logic then, modern scientists should be scorned for defending the Darwin Thesis. That makes no sense. Hence you aren’t making any sense.

      Pigliucci never even addressed my arguments. By his own admission, he has never even read them. Yet you admire somehow someone who talks trash about a thesis he never read, and doesn’t actually address. Hmmm. Just like Young Earth Creationists do with evolution theory.

      The A+ goals are being achieved. You want to ignore that and claim that because the name isn’t useful that somehow it’s failing. Hmm. The name failed to catch on, but all it’s goals are being advanced. That’s kind of the opposite of failure.

      You seem to think all rebuttals to anyone you like is a “hit piece” as if “hit piece” = false. In fact, most hit pieces are hit pieces because they are true. So once again, your standard of truth has no alignment with evidence and reason but is solely calibrated to who you like.

      I wonder who else acts that way. Hmmm.

      Bad SkepticTM indeed.

  26. “Wow. You are like a fundamentalist Christian. I am persuaded by scientific evidence the Big Bang theory actually is true, and you count that a negative. I am persuaded by scientific evidence Taoism is false, and you count that a negative.
    Considering what you count as a negative, it all has one thing in common: being persuaded by evidence that you are wrong.
    So you just told me you can never be persuaded by evidence that you are wrong. Because you think anyone who does that is bad.
    Which means: you will be stuck in your delusions forever.
    Bad SkepticTM.”

    Counted as a negative, where, no? Big inference there, telling this and that, where did I do this? This is just an observation.

    “The rest of your irrational diatribe is equally embarrassing. I called people who joke about raping a teenaged girl on her own thread CHUDS and Thunderf00t defended *them*…and you side with Thunderf00t. What a horrid person you are. You think truth is decided by vote (upvotes in this case). Rather than facts and reason. But sadly, you are saying because more people up voted joking about raping a girl on her own thread, that it’s totes cool to joke about raping a girl on her own thread. By that logic, if more people vote to kill the Jews than against, you’ll totes side with the upvotes. Guess who you would thus have been in 1939 Germany.”

    Point missed. At the end of your “Is Thunderf00t a Sociopath?” you stated: “You decide. Watch my video. Compare it to his. And vote up the one you think is actually doing something good for the atheist movement.” Current result: Thunderf00t’s “Why ‘Feminism’ is poisoning Atheism (Part 3)? 9615 Y/606 N, your Atheism Plus video 831Y/7,988N (admittedly only a snap in time). You can of course assert that YouTubers are horrible people by and large, but you’ll have to provide evidence. It was your public challenge to examine both videos and decide, that was what I was pointing out. This had nothing to do with defending the rape of teenage girls or other such nonsense. Also, did I ever say I even liked Thunderf00t, I think not.

    “Meanwhile, I thoroughly acknowledge I am revising and defending the Doherty Thesis in my book. I suppose by your logic then, modern scientists should be scorned for defending the Darwin Thesis. That makes no sense. Hence you aren’t making any sense.”

    Good. I never read you acknowledge that, but perhaps I missed it. I get the impression that it’s your baby all the way, and nobody is paying attention to it. I noticed you didn’t address the WLC debate or Ehrman, so by the way you make inferences about me and my thoughts, horrible irrational person and all, I take it that you accept these points as fact.

    “Pigliucci never even addressed my arguments. By his own admission, he has never even read them. Yet you admire somehow someone who talks trash about a thesis he never read, and doesn’t actually address. Hmmm. Just like Young Earth Creationists do with evolution theory.”

    So what, he addressed a summary of your views based on your blog post. Reread what he said in “Objective Moral Truth: Thoughts on Carrier’s Take Part 1 and 2,” where he addresses the summary of 6 of your stated premises of objective moral truth in your post “ What exactly is objective moral truth?” Do you deny that you hold to these premises and that Pigliucci critiqued them, and to date you have not addressed these critiques?

    “The A+ goals are being achieved. You want to ignore that and claim that because the name isn’t useful that somehow it’s failing. Hmm. The name failed to catch on, but all it’s goals are being advanced. That’s kind of the opposite of failure.”

    What is the evidence, seems to me that Freethoughblogs is hell bent in defending a form of Atheist Manichaeism where the good atheists are weeded out from the “sexist” “misogynist” etc. etc. bad atheists, and burning bridges with what would be otherwise natural allies in the battle against religious superstition. Growth could be due to a lot of things, the weighing of the religious right, the internet, etc. etc., I know of no study which explains the (still slow) growth of secularism in America.

    “You seem to think all rebuttals to anyone you like is a “hit piece” as if “hit piece” = false. In fact, most hit pieces are hit pieces because they are true. So once again, your standard of truth has no alignment with evidence and reason but is solely calibrated to who you like.”

    Hit pieces are mostly true, hmmm, that seems like really good skepticism at work. By that standard the Breitbart Report is a veritable beacon of truth. So, “solely calibrated to who you like” only applies to me, hmmm. Did I ever say which if any of these people I like? I was making an observation.

    “I wonder who else acts that way. Hmmm.”

    At least you acknowledge there is more that a little bit of truth there.

    “Bad SkepticTM indeed.”

    Is that a brand name?

    Any way you have shown yourself to be a beacon of rationality, one that never infers things without evidence, never demonizes someone for disagreements.

    Congratulations.

    • Give them rope, and they hang themselves.

      You just dig yourself deeper the more you try to get out of this.

      (1) It’s fairly obvious you did not list evidence (of my changing my mind in the face of evidence) as praise. You listed it in the context of an attack, and worded it as an attempt to discredit me (that you now realize that was a huge mistake because it made you look really bad, and actually makes me look really good…well, that’s just the consequence of not thinking things through before acting like a douche).

      No one reading your comments is that stupid. We all know you ate your foot on that one.

      (2) You can’t win an argument that was just refuted by simply repeating the refuted argument. That is, indeed, exactly how Christian fundamentalists act. To see an atheist acting that way is just an embarrassment to atheism.

      You effectively said you decide the truth by vote…and not even a fair vote, but a rigged vote at that, worse even that any web poll ever–literally the most unscientific and unreliable polling method ever. So trusting it is being a bad skeptic indeed, but even a reliable polling system can’t determine the truth by vote, because the truth isn’t decided by vote…at all. It’s decided by evidence. All of which you ignore.

      And now you just doubled down and insisted that is indeed how you decide what’s true. You don’t care what the evidence is. You just follow like a lemming whatever the majority votes for. That is embarrassing. And quite a few people are indeed laughing at you as they read this.

      (3) “This had nothing to do with defending the rape of teenage girls [I'll assume you meant to write what I actually said, which is "joking about" raping a teenaged girl, not "the rape" of; I realize you may have been intentionally lying about what I said, but I'll pretend you weren't--ed.] or other such nonsense.”

      It actually did. I document that fact in my article. All people of sense can read that and see that in fact that is exactly what Thunderf00t is defending. He even called that girl a professional victim! That you agree that’s a terrible thing to have happened is rather sad. Because it’s so awful even you must admit, that you have to resort to denying it happened, rather than face reality, and feel your skin go cold. Talk about being on the wrong side of history.

      (4) “I never read you acknowledge that, but perhaps I missed it.” Uh, yeah, I can only then assume you’ve never read my book or seen any video in which I discuss the theory. Because I have always acknowledged it. So…you just showed you made a claim that was intentionally false. You represented yourself as knowing what I had done, but now you just revealed you never had any knowledge of the matter, but represented yourself as having such knowledge. That’s called lying.

      (5) Pigliucci didn’t even address a correct summary of my argument (an actual peer reviewed argument in formal logic in fact). He argued against things I actually said were inadequate. And expressed no interest in finding out what I actually argued, or what that argument was. He just gainsaid it from the armchair, sight unseen. And this is what you admire. That tells us all we need to know about you. That might suck. But alas. Your bed.

      “Do you deny that you hold to these premises and that Pigliucci critiqued them, and to date you have not addressed these critiques?” The question is not whether I endorse them, but in what sense I understand them, so as to validly derive the conclusion from them. Which I go on to explain in the next paragraph after I stated them: I said that how the conclusion follows from them is not clear when they are worded that way, and to see how it does follow, one has to review my formal argument, which has correctly worded premises and valid formal structure, and which I then cited.

      As I explicitly said: the formal version is “required reading for anyone who wants to challenge this conclusion.” In other words, I said the correct argument was the one I got published under peer review. Not the one I modeled from what Harris was trying to say, because as I immediately explained, his wording was unclear as to what he meant when declaring those premises. Seriously. I literally said: “what those premises assert is unclear in Harris’s hands (even as I have reworded them).” That’s why reading my own version, the one that passed formal peer review, is the one Pigliucci needs to answer. He ignored that, even though I explicitly said it’s the one that needs to be addressed, repeatedly in fact saying the premises in that blog are just paraphrases of Harris’s argument, and that they were inadequate even in my rewording in that blog, and therefore the only adequate way to formulate the premises and reach a conclusion from them is the one I published under peer review.

      Pigliucci is an armchair hothead who doesn’t read carefully and has contempt for anything he doesn’t agree with, and consequently he ignored all that, he ignored everything I actually said, and obliviously and foolishly went on criticizing premises that even I stated were inaccurately formulated because Harris has never tried to rigorously construct an argument–but I have, yet my argument, the only one that has actually satisfied the peer review standards of philosophy as a field (unlike anything Harris has published), Pigliucci refuses even to read, and has never addressed.

      Consequently, Pigliucci has never addressed my argument and has even refused to examine it, declaring it invalid sight unseen. That is literally the most irresponsible way to do philosophy. And you admire it. Think about that.

      (6) Of the growing success of A+ goals, “What is the evidence?” This. And this. And this. Etc.

      The people “burning bridges with what would be otherwise natural allies in the battle against religious superstition” are the people harassing the women in our movement and defending that harassment, the people who spew hate at women and often minorities, the people who think mockery and insults constitute criticism, and who (ironically) treat all criticism of themselves as threats and insults. (And, of course, people who hack our email lists.) In other words, what we’ve been saying is exactly what you just said. Only we said it of the people actually causing the problem. You said it of the people trying to fix it.

      To catch up to speed, check your delusion.

      (7) The Breitbart Report is no more the standard than the New York Times. That is a terrible analogy. To try and impugn all take-downs in the press by pretending the most dishonest of them represents all of them, is again the sort of thing Christian fundamentalists do. Yet you seem to think that’s kosher logic.

      Incidentally, actually noting fallacies and not using them is what it means to be a beacon of rationality. Using fallacies and not noticing it (or not admitting it), is exactly the opposite. And yet look what you keep doing.

      Rope, hang.

      Get out of the business while you’re behind.

      Or update your standards of logic and evidence.

  27. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.

    Hmm. So I see you’ve missed my point for the 3rd time in a row. You say “truth isn’t decided by vote.” They why did you say as I previously quoted “You decide. Watch my video. Compare it to his. And vote up the one you think is actually doing something good for the atheist movement.” Why did you say that if truth isn’t divided by votes. That is my point which you never addressed. It is a web poll but it went 90:10; 10:90, that must say something. So maybe you’re claiming that if a group of rational unbiased people reading all of the material, the poll would swing in exactly the opposite direction and proportion. An interesting experiment in an alternative universe. It must be nice if things worked that way. Again non-reply about WLC and Ehrman, those must be true.

    Of course voting doesn’t always equal truth. But that’s not the same as saying it never does. After all elections are decided by voting, aren’t they, and we accept them as true. Of course there are exceptions Bush V Gore. It would be nice if I could apply an abstract principle of truth and eradicate election results based on reason.

    Also this brings up another point – you excoriate me for using Breitbart as examples of hit pieces, yet your voting analogy used Nazi Germany as the epitome of what voting is. Also the NY Times? A newspaper that regularly employs the likes of Ross Douthat and David Brooks as emblems of rationality?

    I won’t go there with the rape stuff, this is what you keep bringing up but has nothing to do with what I have ever discussed.

    Here’s another example of voting as truth. You say your paper was peer reviewed by four philosophers. Sounds like the vote was 4-0 for publication. If you had picked another journal it might have been 1-3, or 0-4 thus unpublished. The worthiness of a journal article is basically voted on by its impact factor. And the number of publications and citations of publications fair or not play a large impact in obtaining tenure and stature of a scientist, I’m sure also for philosophers. Since there isn’t some truth meter in the sky humans ultimately on some level vote on what is true or not. We vote when we buy book X versus book Y.

    But again I was only talking about the voting you yourself encouraged, and the results of said voting. If it was such a poor way to determine truth, why did you go out of your way recommend it as in “You decide. Watch my video. Compare it to his. And vote up the one you think is actually doing something good for the atheist movement.”

    ——————————————————————————————————-

    But here is my main focus. I was able to pickup at a bookstore your chapter in the book The Christian Delusion called “Moral Facts Naturally Exist.” Here’s a quick summary non-philosophical review. You’ll be surprised.

    First you claim that “the most popular Christian theory of morality is that we had better be good or else we’ll burn in hell for all eternity.” I’m no defender of Christian ethics, but I must say if this is what you think, this is certainly a peculiar way of expressing popular evangelical Christian belief. Being raised in a Christian environment with a Christian mother, and seeing hundreds of sermons as a kid, as well as reading Christian authors, I have never encountered this peculiar way of expressing what Christian morality is about. The Calvinist Christianity and much of the Christianity I’m familiar teaches something along the lines of – we are sinners – we are incapable of being good – hence the need for Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. So it is not a matter of being good per se, but having the proper beliefs – getting saved, and then being saved – sanctification empowers one to become good. I think you have removed a few steps out of what most Christians actually believe. I wanted to start with this first, because it seems to be in error, and a strawman of what most actual Christians believe.

    To avoid BS, below includes what I identify as key quotes behind your scientific arguments for morality, with commentary from your article.

    Moral truth is rational self-interest:
    “The right is that which we want most when rational and informed.” “….our focus should not be to try to deny this fundamental egoism.”

    But this is qualified by, but not argued in the essay….
    “Rational self-interest entails ….virtues of compassion, integrity and reasonableness.”
    Libertarians make these excuses all the time.

    Rationally informed truths are based on biology, environmental conditioning but both are highly constrained.
    “Therefore what we want most (when rationally and sufficiently informed) will always be entailed by, and only by, unalterable biological facts or unalterable environmental facts.”

    We are essentially clones, biologically in terms of our desires:
    “Since our primary biological desires…can’t commonly differ, … that leaves unalterable differences in environment.”
    It is news to me that gays and straits for example share the same primary desires. For a person who promotes diversity it is odd to assert we are all essentially identical.

    We essentially share the same environment but it is context dependent:
    “… moral facts are context-dependent, …when unalterable environmental facts entail wanting something most that those in a different environment won’t want most…That is any system of true moral facts that will already include the fact that, if we were forced in the same conditions, we will be compelled by the same imperatives that then obtain.”

    So people in south Chicago live in the same environment as high rises in New York City, or slums in Calcutta, again news to me.

    So = common biology, common environment = mono morality
    “Since biology will never create a different set of moral facts for every human individual….and environment cannot create a different set of moral facts for any human individual,….and these are the only possible sources of such a difference…. the conclusion follows that there must necessarily be universal moral facts.”

    Just as there can only be one god, there must only be one morality. There is only one right answer to the trolley problem or any given moral thought experiment a person comes up with. Unique perspective, vast majority of philosophers, me thinks would disagree. I just don’t see how this follows at all, why only one good and true solution, how exactly is this rational. And how would one know that this is the one and true solution.

    How will these moral facts be obtained:
    “moral knowledge is not analytical but empirical” “Science can do that in exactly the same way it discovers and verifies imperative propositions in medicine, engineering, or car insurance. …. By psychologists, sociologists and cognitive scientists…”

    Wow pure Sam Harris, reductionist scientists will put on their lab coats, do some MRIs, some surveys with college students and presto chango all moral questions will be solved. Unlike Harris you don’t specify what criteria one would use to determine if said fact is moral or not. At least Harris proposes a criteria – suffering to guage what is moral and what isn’t. I can’t even begin to discuss why this whole approach is problematic. So many philosophers and scientists would find this problematic. I’ve even read some blogs by PZ Myers which have been deeply dismissive of this approach, so I’m not alone in having deep reservations on how far this program will actually go.

    I have to say I really was surprised by your moral arguments. This isn’t what I expected. Unfortunately your arguments aren’t novel at all; in a word this is pure standard libertarianism. This seems like it could come strait out of Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman or the Chicago School of Economics in general. I can see clear the resemblance with Sam Harris reductionistic morality as well as the libertarianism of Stefan Molyneux, Michael Shermer or the Koch brothers for that matter. Do your readers know the extent to which you embrace essentially a radical libertarian view of morality? If not why not, none of what you have written is any different that these forms of libertarianism, which extended to capitalism lend credence to the ideas that radical laissez faire economics lead to universal prosperity everyone if they are just rational and informed enough. The implications of these views seem strangely at odds with the progressive views you seem to constantly promote on your blog posts. If these are your actual views, fine just be honest about it. The only problem with the world is we just need to be more damn rational and informed and the magic invisible hand will solve all social problems. Wow indeed.

    I doubt if Massimo read your full paper, he’d be any more impressed than I was.

    • Next you’ll send me a thousand page manifesto.

      Obviously, you have no argument left. You just want to write a gazillion words no one will read to try and save face. And waste my time. Nothing you are saying now is relevant here. Or even correct. Expert peer review is the same as random internet fan thumbing? Seriously? You have lost all credibility with that argument.

      As is the case for all the worst rebuttals in history, everything I’ve already said to this point already refutes everything you just said above. So I am happy to leave the record at that.

      As for all this bizarre non sequituring about libertarianism, I don’t even know what the fuck you are on about. You clearly have not read much that I’ve written on this subject. You are doing a Massimo Squared. Ignoring everything I actually argued, drawing wholly fallacious conclusions, and arguing completely irrelevant things against it.

      Take the tinfoil hat off. Please.

  28. Final comments. If you can’t beat them, can’t take honest critique, ignore them. Judging by the fact that no one has discussed your moral theory, except Massimo in passing, or has even heard about it, good luck with trying to get any real philosophers or scientists to notice. I’d bet you’d take twice the pounding Sam Harris did, if you tried a book length treatment of the subject. People have been wrestling with this for thousands of years, are you the Einstein who has magically unlocked the key to morality (but it seems more like Don Quixote tilting at windmills) I know definitely not from reading your “peer reviewed philosophy.” I looked for the Wizard of Oz, but found a little man behind the screen, sorry. It would be fun to watch someone like Russell Blackford take such a book apart piece by piece, but I know that ain’t gonna happen. Your so confident in your Jesus theory, that you review Amazon comments, and constantly beg someone like Bart Ehrman to pay attention. Did Darwin beg Richard Owen, Adam Sedgwick or Louis Agassiz and countless others to read the Origin, when he got some harsh criticism, I’ll note since you constantly call me a creationist. Me thinks not. I could practically word for word find parallels with your moral views and prominent libertarians such as Ayn Rand and Stefan Molyneux but why bother, you’d just ignore it. Anyway if you bothered to look it up, you’d find striking parallels. When is your appeasement piece about Robin Williams was an asshole after all – PZ was right, going to be posted? That would be fun to read.

    Your morality is “fundamental egoism,” fully demonstrated by your own words and behavior. That part is true.

    That’s it, over and out.

    • Judging by the fact that no one has discussed your moral theory, except Massimo in passing, or has even heard about it…

      Um, my moral theory chapter was peer reviewed by four noted professors of philosophy (Wielenberg, McCormick, Shook, and Fales). They are even named in the chapter. I was also chosen by another prominent professor of philosophy to further defend his defense of moral realism, precisely because of my work in defending moral realism (“On the Facts as We Know Them, Ethical Naturalism Is All There Is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan,” Philo 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2012): 200-11, switching in for Walter Sinnott-Armstrong). And yet another, Steven Law, is advising a grad student on a dissertation analyzing my theory.

      You really can’t get that foot out of your mouth, can you?

      Way to pay attention.

      Try acting like an adult for a change. It’s actually kind of better than childhood.

  29. A man believes what he wants to believe and disregards the rest. You are the Stephen Wolfram, Ray Kurzweil or Tony Robbins of moral realism, only time will tell I guess. Aristotle and Spinoza beware!

    I’ll take off my imaginary tin foil hat, as soon as the real man steps out from behind the curtain.

    Manifesto – hysterical!!!!!

    Yes voting does often determine truth, as in natural selection. QED.

  30. For the record I’m a moral fictionalist along the lines proposed by philosophers like Richard Joyce, who yet believes we have an evolved moral sense along the lines proposed by Christopher Boehme in Moral Origins and of course Darwin. They don’t contradict because a moral sense does not imply moral objectivity, just species specific commonalities that constrain moral possibilities. If we were Chimps, the morality as fictionalized in the novel Great Apes by Will Self and polygamy instead of monogamy would be considered moral. If we were certain kinds of insects, cannibalistic mating would be considered moral. If we were naked mole rats, incest would be considered moral. There is no morality that can get around species specific mating and social traits. Quarrels about the morality of puny humans don’t have much to do with black hole dynamics or the evolution of the universe. We can describe typical moral systems but we can’t proscribe which ones are best. Start there if you want to build a more defensible moral theory.

    • I think you are too far outside the debate to actually know what the issues are. Objective moral facts are not descriptive. They are not the moral sentiments we evolved, as they are as flawed as the cognitive reasoning abilities we evolved. You would not say that the correct way to reason is whatever way our brains evolved to reason. You would say our brains reason incorrectly, and we need rules to get them to reason correctly, and we have to discover what those rules are (the correct logics for processing information). Likewise morality: our brains don’t work very well at generating sound behavior, so we need rules to get our flawed choosing-mechanisms to behave correctly, and we have to discover what those rules are (the correct facts and logic for processing imperatives).

      We do that by ascertaining what people’s actual priorities are (the things they want most, and would sacrifice all other things for), which is an evolved fact about us (and thus species contingent), but it is not “mating” (no one would put mating ahead of life satisfaction–it’s simply a fact of psychological science that a wholly miserable life of mating success appeals to no one, when what that actually means is fully, and factually, understood), nor is it itself moral (one can want happiness above all and still pursue it immorally…thus, morality exists in the what you do to achieve your goals, not in the core goal by itself, and the what you must do derives from facts of the world apart from yourself).

      Read my chapter on this in TEC, and for further understanding following its scholarly bibliography (several cognitive scientists and philosophers have covered this in proper detail).

      The bottom line is, morality is more a product of Game Theory than evolution. Evolution just sort of gerrymanders its way toward Game Theory solutions, sloppily and badly, the same way it sort of gerrymanders its way toward logical thought, sloppily and badly. To fix it, we need actual logic and actual Game Theory. Which we use to run a software patch on that buggy brain, a patch which we call culture. And whether the patch (the culture) is right or not is not subjective and arbitrary, but an objective fact of the world (logic is logic, there is only one correct logic; ditto Game Theory, Contract Theory, Social System Theory, and so on).

  31. Some more quick thoughts. You cannot take the zeitgeist of one era, and make it be the morality for everyone for all time. Darwin by today’s standards would be an ardent racist. Slavery existed for thousands of years largely because a preindustrial society had a high demand for hard labor. As described by Pinker’s book it wasn’t science per se as much as a more rational reflection of putting ourselves in other peoples shoes which has lead to the decrease in public cruel and unusual punishment. Not too long ago the DSM listed homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder, not necessarily because psychiatrists were a bunch of homophobes, but because they actually thought it was a disorder. A case could be made that vegetarianism is moral just on the grounds of the huge amount of agricultural resources dedicated to feeding chicken, cows and pigs as well as the cruel and unusual punishment they undergo in the process. One could argue that extreme wealth is a form of sociopathy since it leads to excessive accumulation and control of resources by single people or families that distort the needs of the commons, even if it has been a practice since the beginnings of civilization. One could also make a case that the cavalier dismissal of the concerns of climate change will be looked at by future generations as our equivalent of slavery. Or the ways we get our shirts on the backs of cheap labor in third world countries a form of wage slavery. Adopt and be adamant about any of these three positions and you will be looked at as lunatic even by many so called liberals. So you see it is difficult to say what is really moral in the present, often times only looking back at the past provides perspective.

  32. Objective things in nature are compulsory. You cannot disobey the laws of nature; gravity is operating on all things at all time. Thermodynamics is statistical so even Maxwell’s demon is a poor strategy to try to evade it. Even evolution is objective, creatures with traits best able to survive and reproduce will statistically over time. Some things related to morality can be considered objective in a statistical sense like reciprocal altruism and kin selection, since both promote survival and reproduction. But we shouldn’t mistake morality as an evolved trait with morality as an objective fact. After all some evolved traits are quite nasty like reinforcement of in group/out group distinctions, leading to things like genocide and the quite abhorrent attitudes toward immigrants these days.

    Moral realism is the equivalent of divine command theory or process theology, there has to be some natural force that compels us to be moral or drives us to evolve to be moral as Robert Wright suggests. I thing both are utter rubbish. Say we come up with formulas or principles on what is moral and what isn’t. If person, family, company or whatever A disobeys in, is some objective natural moral force going to come out of the sky and compel people to behave. Almost always people collectively decide certain behaviors are no longer tolerable in a decent society, so people who exhibit those behaviors are collectively shunned. Sometimes these are later enshrined in law. But this isn’t objective, but reflects the collective and fickle whims of the makeup of the current society. And it often goes array in very ugly ways like the Japanese internment camps. But this compulsion is not an objective force, but the collective judgment of a society. Thus, an evolving moral zeitgeist is a better way of understanding the development of morality. And why moral fictionalism, the notion that morality is not an actual objective thing but in a way a kind of mythmaking we do to try to explain our actions. Don Imus and Donald Sterling lost their jobs because of their caught on tape racist comments. Our current climate considers such activity repulsive (I agree) but I’d be hard pressed to call this objective. If you’re able to figure out Jesus was a myth, I cannot for the life of me, understand why you can’t see this as well. Sam Harris also doesn’t make sense to me either, so you’re in good company. He’s spot on that free will is an illusion, but by his own logic, I can’t see why it doesn’t follow that morality is an illusion as well, after all creatures compelled by the laws of nature have no freedom to do what they do, so what is morality but essentially an epiphenomena. But I don’t deny that morality as a species specific evolve trait exists, or that it is objective in the sense that it can be describe, just that it can be objective in the ways other objective laws are – compelling and incapable of being disobeyed.

    This will be my last post unless you choose to respond – none of these are near a thousand pages. I actually don’t care if you post any of my recent replies. It’s really just a matter of if you can actually respond to any of this that matters. Just need to get this off my chest, for the record. I just wanted to emphasize why moral realism is essentially a non-starter. Until you can show that moral realism is objective in the way all other scientific objective laws are – compelling behavior in a non societal zeitgeist whim manner, I remain deeply skeptical of the project. I called your philosophy libertarianism for many reasons, not least of which, the repetition of the phrases – rational and informed (on balance great things to strive for of course) over and over again like a mantra. You can get a collection of philosophers to agree on just about anything, doesn’t make it valid. For example, Ladyman and Ross in Everything Must Go, showed essentially that many current philosophers understanding of science is pure rubbish. All published in peer reviewed journals but rubbish nonetheless. You should understand this too, after all there are many climate denialists and IDiots who have polished peer review resumes as well. You can tout your list of philosophers, I can too – in addition to Pigliucci. Joyce, and Blackford, there is Michael Sandel, JL Mackie, Alex Rosenberg, Dan Dennett, Shelly Kagan just to name a few off the top of my head who essentially hold variants of these views. I think essentially Stephen Pinker would be another as well. I’m just trying to help you not pursue silly projects that won’t go anywhere.

    • Objective things in nature are compulsory. You cannot disobey the laws of nature

      False.

      It is an objective thing in nature that you must build a bridge a certain way if you don’t want it to fall. Yet you are not compelled to build the bridge that way. You are not even compelled to witness the bridge collapse if you don’t (since risk is actuarial, and not guaranteed: the bridge might get lucky).

      It is an objective fact of the world that if you want a surgical patient to survive, you have to sterilize your instruments. Again, the risk is actuarial, but real. It is an objective reality.

      Likewise morality. If you want to maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way. That is an objective fact of the world, same as the laws governing surgery or bridge building.

      To understand how this plays out in practice, read my chapter in TEC. Then respond to that. Stop acting like a Christian apologist who keeps responding to atheists by refusing to read their actual arguments and pretending to magically know what they are instead.

      Game Theory is not a silly project that goes nowhere. Nor is Social Contract Theory. Nor is Social Systems Theory. Nor is the psychology of human interaction. Nor is the cognitive science of human satisfaction. Nor is basing preferred behavior, and the cultivation of values and virtues, on actual outcome measures, measured against actual human values.

      …after all there are many climate denialists and IDiots who have polished peer review resumes as well…

      I am curious. Can you give me an example of a defense of ID or the absence of climate change that has appeared in a legitimate peer reviewed journal? (Which was not subsequently retracted as a fraud.)

      Not that that matters; it’s just a bad example. One can easily find false science under peer review (this is guaranteed by the method of significance testing: at the common 5% standard, 1 in 20 science papers is false, yet thousands of papers are published at that standard a year, so hundreds of peer reviewed science papers every year are false). But that does not mean non-peer reviewed science papers are as reliable as peer reviewed ones. And likewise for philosophy. So you can’t claim peer review doesn’t matter. Obviously if you have a choice between reading a peer reviewed philosophy paper, and one that’s not, you should read the peer reviewed one. To refuse to do that and instead only answer a non-peer-reviewed summary or essay is to engage a well known fallacy called Straw Man. You would not tolerate someone trying to refute evolution by attacking a casual summary of a science paper, and ignoring the actual paper. Yet you tolerate Pigliucci doing exactly that. He acts like a creationist. And you think that’s commendable. I do not.

      And that’s the difference between us.

  33. “Likewise morality. If you want to maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way. That is an objective fact of the world, same as the laws governing surgery or bridge building.”

    Let me just highlight this comment, since it is very mushy and murky. If our criteria is survival and reproduction, then anything Darwinism promotes is moral. I once new a guy who had 15 children through 5 different wives, working across the country trying to avoid alimony. Assuming his children survive, by strict Darwinian principles he has been very successful. Also as far as I could tell he felt little to no remorse over his activities, seemed pretty satisfied, in fact he was always on the go for more women to seduce. By Darwinism, he is supremely successful, by any ordinary standards of morality he is a scumbag. Genghis Khan is another example. You could come up with a thousand examples like this, people who are very successful both in terms of navigating through society, achieving personal satisfaction, having many children, yet as they say of the Great Gatsby, leaving a trail of dead bodies and broken lives. If I lived in Nazi Germany, a favorite example of yours, a more optimal strategy would be to not help hide Jews and face arrest myself, yet that would hardly be considered the moral choice.

    Darwinism at least give a criteria of what is successful, though as Dawkins suggests, we should rebel against the tyranny of the selfish genes, because much of human behavior has nasty consequences if we want to take up a social Darwinist ideology strictly adhering to Darwinian principles = what is good is what is successful. We can go by Harris proposal as what maximizes happiness and minimizes suffering, but that becomes a somewhat subjective exercise since happiness and suffering mean different things to different people, and calibrating happiness to Westernized values seem short cited.

    So no one will deny there are better ways to do surgery or build bridges, but how is this moral, what does this have to do with morality? Efficient ways to do tasks don’t constitute morality. How do we even begin to define what personal life satisfaction is, there are as many definitions as people, and no clear way of resolving them. Some people sitting all day and typing is personal satisfaction, to others being active all the time is, others need accomplishment to be satisfied, others it is primarily through relationship, and on and on and on. There is no way to measure this, unless you want to do some sort of grotesque laundry list on what is personal satisfaction.

    I would like to think, “cultivation of values and virtues,” would be a part of it. But like I say there are countless examples of people who seem to lack either or both who are very successful, seem perfectly happy. How are we going to stop that.

    So you sort of define a target – personal satisfaction, but it’s completely fuzzy as to what that refers to. I also note you didn’t answer, if this is such a slam dunk, why do so many philosophers think a scientific basis for morality is a non-starter. So it’s not just Pigliucci or me you have a beef with, but a large body of philosophers, scientists and philosophy some of whom I’ve mentioned. Forget about me, what are they not seeing? I’ll try to look into the works you suggest, honestly I don’t know what I’ll find that will address these concerns. Seems to me your treating morality like optimal foraging, it does occur, there is very established science behind it, but it’s not what people usually refer to as morality.

    Nobody denies that all things equal, peer reviewed papers are better than non. But you agreed with me, that is no guarantee of validity or truth. That’s what I got for now, will look at these papers you suggest, but if it’s just an extension of evolutionary stable strategies applied to morality, I don’t think it will go far. Since you don’t want to deal with too many things at once, I’ll leave things at that.

    • If our criteria is survival and reproduction…

      As I already explained, all psychological science proves no one alive considers either their primary goal or desire. That’s why so many people are willing to risk their lives or die for causes or goals they consider more important than survival. And why so few people care at all about reproduction, and none are willing to trade the whole of their own happiness for it except as a consequence of factually false beliefs we call “religions.”

      So what you ought to do is driven by goals and desires that far precede survival and reproduction. Those latter two goals have very little cognitive value, especially to people with evidence-based beliefs.

      Facts follows from facts. You are not arguing from facts. You are arguing from fictions.

      If you want to know what people prioritize above all other things (even their own survival, if forced to choose), you have to ask science: you have to actually look at the evidence of people and the world, actually gather data. Then you’ll know. And it will be an objective fact, as much as any other fact of the world.

      And that is my entire point.

      But if you actually want to understand my point, you have to actually read my paper on it.

      Continuing to harp from the armchair at something you’ve never read and know nothing about just makes you into yet another pseudoscientist like any creationist or climate science denier or anti-vaxxer. Making excuses for acting just like yet another pseudoscientist like any creationist or climate science denier or anti-vaxxer does not change the fact that you are acting like yet another pseudoscientist like any creationist or climate science denier or anti-vaxxer. And if that’s what you want to act like, then your epistemology is self-damning to all observing this conversation.

  34. I wasn’t going to respond again but I’m confused. You say I should read your chapter in TEC – Do Moral Facts Naturally Exist – I read it already and directly quoted it and discussed in #33 above. If that is what it is, you obviously think I misread it though I read it carefully several times. If so, what section(s) are you talking about that I should re-read. If not, what paper are you referring to?

    • I am having a hard time believing you. You show no awareness of what the argument actually is.

      So here is a test: there are syllogisms at the end of my chapter in TEC. Identify any step in those syllogisms that is fallacious, or any premise in them that is not known to be true.

      Then we can proceed with a useful discussion of whether I am right.

      If you cannot do that, then you must concede you are wrong. Because you then must admit you are faced with a logically valid and sound argument, and can find no flaw in it.

      So, to save face, you have to find that flaw, or else concede. (That is, in fact, the point of using syllogisms.)

      Go.

  35. A quickie. A climate denialist who has published peer reviewed papers on climate science – Richard Lindzen of MIT -also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

    http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen.htm

    One example of several papers:

    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0477%281990%29071%3C0288%3ASCCGW%3E2.0.CO%3B2

    But please – no debate on this guy – I’m not a climatologist, but think his ideas are bogus. There are other examples too (more of his papers and other denialists with publications, though they are an extreme minority). You asked me to provide an example so I did.

    • That paper is not really a denial paper. It’s a risk assessment paper. It concludes “Certainly, the possibility of a significant greenhouse warming remains for the present.” And that human activity is partly responsible. It only asks whether we know how large the damage will be (and doesn’t make any claims either way, i.e. it does not assert the damage will be insignificant, it only asks if we can know it will be as bad as certain predictions have it) and whether corrective action is possible (it basically concludes we’re doomed, so why bother trying to reduce emissions…that’s literally the closing argument of the paper).

      I meant a paper that doesn’t accept anthropogenic global warming passing peer review.

      Do you have one of those?

      Because this paper accepts it. And fully admits it’s going to be bad. It merely tries to argue it won’t be “that” bad, and even if it is, there’s nothing we can do about it (not least because remedies would too substantially reduce quality of life).

  36. Here’s the last one until some undisclosed post to a blog in the future perhaps. I’m going on vacation so won’t be able to post any replies or responses for some time anyway, and I’ve said quite enough – so here goes one final shot for the road. I’ll read any replies in a couple of weeks or so when I’m back, should you choose to reply but won’t respond but to a possible future topic. I was going to wait for your reply before posting this, but alas I must be on my way. I think this will just about exhaust anything I would want to say on this topic anyway.

    I feel like I’m in a David Lynch film trying to have a conversation with you. Every word or argument I make changes in to something else in an unpredictable way, and the things I said aren’t the things I said or they are completely ignored like they don’t exist and I find myself a completely different person – creationist, irrational, horrible person, tin hat conspiracy theorist, than I though I was. The power of reason.

    Here’s the easiest way I know of to resolve my apparent misunderstanding. Here’s a simple question, according to your moral realism argument, is Mitt Romney an example of a moral person. Tell me using your moral philosophy according to your paper, not your personal beliefs. This is a great case study because it will clarify what you are actually arguing, because I can’t make heads or tails of what you are saying through the thick layer of your tendentious prose, except how I interpret it. I infer that it is a form of libertarian philosophy, since it sounds so much to me of what I can make of it like Ayn Rand or Stefan Molyneux. Mitt Romney, seems to me, exemplifies your maxim “maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way.” Since according to your paper “morality can only ever be an exercise in self interest,” and “moral agents are operating rationally and with sufficient information,” this is exemplified in Romney’s clear skill in pursuing his rational self interest and remaining keenly informed on the nature of the businesses he be came involve in to become supremely successful as a businessman. Sure he is a Mormon, but as a businessman he has pursued his interests with keen highly informed rationality. Like a bridge builder or a surgeon, he has clear core competencies which have enabled his success in an objectively measurable manner. He was a successful governor as well and almost nearly becoming POTUS as well. From his public appearances he doesn’t lack self confidence, and doesn’t appear to be lacking in any observable way – personal life satisfaction. He also has successfully raised a large family and has shown compassion in giving millions of dollars worth of charity and has no demonstrable or known character flaws in the area of marital fidelity. So he exemplifies many aspects of what your paper suggests morality consists of. So you might successfully argue that Romney is moral using the principles outlined in your paper. However you will succeed at the expense of having a libertarian/quasi-Tony Robbins like philosophy in which the good consists of one drawing up goals for personal happiness, and leveraging personal power to achieve those goals given the current social milieu, maybe being a little compassionate on the side for flavor.

    But alas, there are critics who don’t think many of his means of success demonstrate how a moral person should behave.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/greed-and-debt-the-true-story-of-mitt-romney-and-bain-capital-20120829?page=3

    But if you retort, that Romney isn’t moral, that he uses immoral means to achieve his ends, then why is it that these objective things in nature seem so powerless to stop him. Succinctly how isn’t he moral using the language in your paper. If he is not moral, what does your definition of morality as rational self interest, or in your exact words “morality can only ever be an exercise in self interest,” even mean? If Romney somehow isn’t moral by your system, and moral facts naturally exist – what exactly do these moral facts do in the world? Is morality like Santa Claus, determining who is naughty and nice – we can choose to be nice if we want to be part of the Rational, Informed and Compassionate TM club, according to Carrier’s Little Red Book of True Genuine Objective Morality TM in which we might get a lapel pin or nice handy dandy certificate if we pass the proper peer reviewed tests? Hence my claim that actual objective things in nature are compulsory, and dictate actual behavior, thus morality cannot be an objective thing in this sense. So these objective moral facts don’t seem at all like gravity to me. You also bring up the example that “a fully rational and informed slave master must agree that it’s factually true that his slaves ought to kill him.” Can we agree that Thomas Jefferson was one of the most rational and informed persons who has ever existed? Why didn’t he heed your advice? And wasn’t Machiavelli one of the most rational and informed people of all time? And we know what kind of advice he gave.

    Or we can go to the opposite extreme and emphasize compassion as the central virtue, and hitch a ride to the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, India or try to become the Buddha. Or maybe the ideal is some weird hybrid of Romney and the Dalai Lama.

    If your theory is correct, then anti-realism must be wrong by definition. Below is an example of an antirealist position taken (excised for clarity and to keep it succinct) from Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist Guide to Reality Chapter 5 Morality: The Bad News. The full argument is found in both Chapter 5 and Chapter 6. We can agree that Alex Rosenberg is a well respected well credentialed philosopher who is also very well versed in the biological sciences. Using this portion of his argument, or his whole argument if you like, explain to me where he goes astray. Everything below seems eminently reasonable and fact based. But these arguments must be incorrect if your moral realism position is correct. I could have picked Richard Joyce or JL Mackie, but then you would have justifiably accused me of trying to send a thousand page manifesto. He makes a lot of the same arguments I have been trying to get across, yet distinct from my own, so these should be easy to succinctly refute with specifics.

    “Is natural selection so smart that it was able to filter out all the wrong, incorrect, false core moralities and end up with the only one that just happens to be true? Or is it the other way around: Natural selection filtered out all but one core morality, and winning the race is what made the last surviving core morality the right, correct, true one. Which is it?

    It can’t be either one. ……Our core morality isn’t true, right, correct, and neither is any other. Nature just seduced us into thinking it’s right. It did that because that made core morality work better; our believing in its truth increases our individual genetic fitness.

    Consider the second alternative first: Natural selection filtered out all the other variant core moralities, leaving just one core morality, ours. It won the race, and that’s what made the last surviving core morality, our core morality, the right, correct, true one. This makes the rightness, correctness, truth of our core morality a result of its evolutionary fitness. But how could this possibly be the answer to the question of what makes our core morality right? There doesn’t seem to be anything in itself morally right about having lots of kids, or grandchildren, or great grandchildren, or even doing things that make having kids more likely. But this is all the evolutionary fitness of anything comes to. The first alternative is the explanation for the correlation that we’d like to accept: core morality is the right, binding, correct, true one and that is why humans have been selected for detecting that it is the right core morality. But natural selection couldn’t have been discerning enough to pick out the core morality that was independently the right, true, or correct one. There are several reasons it had little chance of doing so.

    First, there is lots of evidence that natural selection is not very good at picking out true beliefs, especially scientific ones. Natural selection shaped our brain to seek stories with plots. …..Mother Nature’s methods of foisting false beliefs on us were so subtle they have only recently begun to be detected ……That was adaptive in a hostile world, but it makes valid logical reasoning, and especially statistical inference, difficult. Without the ability to reason from evidence, getting things right is a matter of good luck at best. Second, there is strong evidence that natural selection produces lots of false but useful beliefs. Just think about religion, any religion. Every one of them is chock full of false beliefs. We won’t shake any of them. There are so many, they are so long-lasting, that false religious beliefs must have conferred lots of adaptive advantages on believers. …… Of course, all the religious beliefs that natural selection foisted on people made acquiring scientific truths about the world much more difficult. There is a third reason to doubt that natural selection arranged for us to acquire the true morality. It is really good at producing and enforcing norms that you and I think are immoral. It often selects for norms that we believe to be morally wrong, incorrect, and false. In fact, a good part of the arguments against many of these “immoral” beliefs rests on the fact that natural selection can explain why people still mistakenly hold them.

    There are lots of moral values and ethical norms that enlightened people reject but which Mother Nature has strongly selected for. Racism and xenophobia are optimally adapted to maximize the representation of your genes in the next generation, instead of some stranger’s genes. Consider the almost universal patriarchal norms of female subordination. They are all the result of Darwinian processes. We understand why natural selection makes the males of almost any mammalian species bigger than the females: male competition for access to females selects for the biggest, strongest males and so makes males on average bigger than females. The greater the male-male competition, the greater the male-female size difference. We also know that in general, there will be selection for individuals who are bigger and stronger and therefore impose their will on those who are weaker—especially when it comes to maximizing the representation of their genes in the next generation. But just because the patriarchy is an inevitable outcome of natural selection is no reason to think it is right, correct, or true.

    In fact, once we see that sexism is the result of natural selection’s search for solutions to the universal design problem of leaving the most viable and fertile offspring, some of us are on the way to rejecting its norms. We can now explain away sexism as a natural prejudice that enlightened people can see right through. In different environments, natural selection has produced other arrangements; consider, for example, the social insects, where the top of the hierarchy is always a female. Natural selection sometimes selects for false beliefs and sometimes even selects against the acquisition of true beliefs. It sometimes selects for norms we reject as morally wrong. Therefore, it can’t be a process that’s reliable for providing us with what we consider correct moral beliefs. The fact that our moral core is the result of a long process of natural selection is no reason to think that our moral core is right, true, or correct.

    …..

    Scientism cannot explain the fact that when it comes to the moral core, fitness and correctness seem to go together. But neither can it tolerate the unexplained coincidence. There is only one alternative. We have to give up correctness. We have to accept that core morality was selected for, but we have to give up the idea that core morality is true in any sense. Of course, obeying core morality is convenient for getting our genes copied in the next generation, useful for enhancing our fitness, a good thing to believe if all you care about is leaving a lot of offspring. If core morality is convenient, useful, good for any fitness-maximizing creature in an environment like ours to believe, then it doesn’t matter whether it is really true, correct, or right. If the environment had been very different, another moral core would have been selected for, perhaps even the dog-eat-dog morality Herbert Spencer advocated under the mistaken label of social Darwinism. But it wouldn’t have been made right, correct, or true by its fitness in that environment.

    ……

    As we have just seen, the biological facts can’t guarantee that our core morality (or any other one, for that matter) is the right, true, or correct one. If the biological facts can’t do it, then nothing can. No moral core is right, correct, true.”

    Or here’s a nice little piece from Russell Blackford’s review of Sam Harris, again eminently sensible – these must also be false if moral realism is true, so it should be easy to succinctly point out the errors as well:

    http://jetpress.org/v21/blackford3.htm
    “At one point, Harris toys with the rather desperate idea that even the word “should,” or the expression “ought to,” can be translated along the lines that “You should do X,” or “You ought to do X” means “X will maximize global well-being.” Apart from the inherent implausibility of this for any competent speaker of the English language, it misses the point. Suppose we assigned that meaning to the word “should”: we could then translate the question “Why should I act in such a way as to maximize global well-being?” as the ludicrous, “Does acting in such a way as to maximize global well-being maximize global well-being?” Of course it does, but this gets us nowhere. When Alice proposes to do Y, even though alternative course of action X will maximize global well-being, she is not asking us which of the possible courses of action will, in fact have that effect. She already knows this.
    Her question is, in effect, “What is that to me?” How, she wants to know, is she rationally required to act against her preference? How, for example, is she acting against a standard that she herself accepts? Or what vital information about the world is she still missing? Or how will her proposed course of action frustrate her own goals or otherwise be self-defeating? As Richard Joyce argues in detail in his splendid book The Myth of Morality (2001), a point can be reached where someone like Alice is not failing to understand anything or acting against her own standards or frustrating her own goals (even if her behavior is socially frowned upon, she may, quite correctly, believe that she can get away with it in this case). Under those circumstances, there is a sense in which the prescription to adopt course of action X is not rationally binding on her. She is not failing to understand anything. And unless we cheat by invoking a standard of rationality that is already moralized in some way, she is not doing anything irrational when she goes ahead with action Y.
    If we want to persuade Alice to take action X, we need to appeal to some value (or desire, or hope, or fear, etc. … but you get the idea) that she actually has. Perhaps we can appeal to her wish for our approval, but that won’t work unless she actually cares about whether or not we approve of her. She is not rationally bound to act in the way we wish her to act, which may be the way that maximizes global welfare, unless we can get some kind of grip on her own actual values and desires (etc.).
    Harris does not seem to understand this idea. In a long endnote to The Moral Landscape, he accuses J.L. Mackie of making an elementary error in developing the idea in his celebrated Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (1977). Harris says, “Clearly, Mackie has conflated” two notions of objectivity and subjectivity. Leaving aside Harris’ habitual over-reliance on the words “clear” and “clearly,” often to support assertions that are not clear at all, Mackie makes no such error.
    Mackie does not confuse the idea that talk about morality relates to our experience (and is in that sense “subjective”) with the idea that it is therefore biased or merely personal (“subjective” in a different sense). The point I’ve been making, and which Mackie makes throughout Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, is that claims about how we should act are not rationally binding on us irrespective of such things as our actual values and desires. Putting it another way, they are not objectively prescriptive. Alice is never rationally bound to act so as to maximize global well-being, if she actually places a higher priority on something else, such as maximizing the well-being of herself or her loved ones. That is what is frequently meant, including by Mackie, when philosophers say that morality is not “objective.” As Richard Joyce shows, there is always room for questions such as “What is that to me?”
    There can, as Harris states, be objectively true facts about people’s subjective experience. But Mackie and Joyce are not disputing this. Their point is that there are no judgments about how people like Alice should conduct themselves that are binding on them as a matter of fact or reason, irrespective of such things as what they actually value, or desire, or care about.”

    Anyway these are the kind of arguments you must defeat, and many many more, if you expect moral realism to gain wide acceptance. Your responses so far help me to understand why prominent figures like Massimo Pigliucci, Bart Ehrman or even William Lane Craig are extremely reluctant if at all, to engage with you in public forums. Before you rake coals on me again, recall I’m one of the few atheists in the country who is both even aware of the minutia of yours and others detailed Jesus Myth research, and thinks on balance there is very solid evidence for its validity, if the argument and full facts are properly presented, so I can’t be a complete irrational idiot.

  37. AT LAST, FINALLY SOME CONCLUSIONS CAN BE DRAWN:
    In the Richard Carrier style of responding to the non-response of Bart Ehrman.
    From a far away hidden bunker, on unexpected access to vacation guest computer in the Himalayas.
    In the wee wee hours of the night.
    ME
    Here’s a simple question, according to your moral realism argument, is Mitt Romney an example of a moral person. Tell me using your moral philosophy according to your paper, not your personal beliefs. This is a great case study because it will clarify what you are actually arguing, because I can’t make heads or tails of what you are saying…
    YOU
    Not a single thing in that comment addresses my work on moral theory.
    Address my work. Not some sort of weird completely unrelated whatever.
    CONCLUSION – A
    Whatever your moral theory is, it cannot determine whether or not Mitt Romney is a moral person or not.
    ME
    Mitt Romney, seems to me, exemplifies your maxim “maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way.” Since according to your paper “morality can only ever be an exercise in self interest,” and “moral agents are operating rationally and with sufficient information,” this is exemplified in Romney’s clear skill in pursuing his rational self interest and remaining keenly informed on the nature of the businesses he be came involve in to become supremely successful as a businessman. Sure he is a Mormon, but as a businessman he has pursued his interests with keen highly informed rationality. Like a bridge builder or a surgeon, he has clear core competencies which have enabled his success in an objectively measurable manner. He was a successful governor as well and almost nearly becoming POTUS as well. From his public appearances he doesn’t lack self confidence, and doesn’t appear to be lacking in any observable way – personal life satisfaction. He also has successfully raised a large family and has shown compassion in giving millions of dollars worth of charity and has no demonstrable or known character flaws in the area of marital fidelity. So he exemplifies many aspects of what your paper suggests morality consists of. So you might successfully argue that Romney is moral using the principles outlined in your paper.
    YOU
    Not a single thing in that comment addresses my work on moral theory.
    Address my work. Not some sort of weird completely unrelated whatever.
    CONCLUSION – B
    Whatever your moral theory is, it cannot determine whether or not Mitt Romney is a moral person or not, and does not use the language and analogies that it actually uses.
    ME
    Mitt Romney, seems to me, exemplifies your maxim “maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way.” Since according to your paper “morality can only ever be an exercise in self interest,” and “moral agents are operating rationally and with sufficient information,” this is exemplified in Romney’s clear skill in pursuing his rational self interest and remaining keenly informed on the nature of the businesses he be came involve in to become supremely successful as a businessman. Sure he is a Mormon, but as a businessman he has pursued his interests with keen highly informed rationality. Like a bridge builder or a surgeon, he has clear core competencies which have enabled his success in an objectively measurable manner. He was a successful governor as well and almost nearly becoming POTUS as well. From his public appearances he doesn’t lack self confidence, and doesn’t appear to be lacking in any observable way – personal life satisfaction. He also has successfully raised a large family and has shown compassion in giving millions of dollars worth of charity and has no demonstrable or known character flaws in the area of marital fidelity. So he exemplifies many aspects of what your paper suggests morality consists of. So you might successfully argue that Romney is moral using the principles outlined in your paper.
    YOU
    Not a single thing in that comment addresses my work on moral theory.
    Address my work. Not some sort of weird completely unrelated whatever.
    CONCLUSION – C
    Whatever your moral theory is, it cannot determine whether or not Mitt Romney is a moral person or not, and does not use the language and analogies that it actually uses.
    ME
    If he is not moral, what does your definition of morality as rational self interest, or in your exact words “morality can only ever be an exercise in self interest,” even mean? If Romney somehow isn’t moral by your system, and moral facts naturally exist – what exactly do these moral facts do in the world? Is morality like Santa Claus, determining who is naughty and nice – we can choose to be nice if we want to be part of the Rational, Informed and Compassionate TM club, according to Carrier’s Little Red Book of True Genuine Objective Morality TM in which we might get a lapel pin or nice handy dandy certificate if we pass the proper peer reviewed tests? Hence my claim that actual objective things in nature are compulsory, and dictate actual behavior, thus morality cannot be an objective thing in this sense. So these objective moral facts don’t seem at all like gravity to me. You also bring up the example that “a fully rational and informed slave master must agree that it’s factually true that his slaves ought to kill him.”
    YOU
    Not a single thing in that comment addresses my work on moral theory.
    Address my work. Not some sort of weird completely unrelated whatever.
    CONCLUSION – D
    Whatever your moral theory is, it cannot determine whether or not Mitt Romney is a moral person or not, and does not use the language and analogies that it actually uses.
    ME
    If your theory is correct, then anti-realism must be wrong by definition. Below is an example of an antirealist position taken (excised for clarity and to keep it succinct) from Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist Guide to Reality Chapter 5 Morality: The Bad News. The full argument is found in both Chapter 5 and Chapter 6. We can agree that Alex Rosenberg is a well respected well credentialed philosopher who is also very well versed in the biological sciences. Using this portion of his argument, or his whole argument if you like, explain to me where he goes astray. Everything below seems eminently reasonable and fact based. But these arguments must be incorrect if your moral realism position is correct.
    YOU
    Not a single thing in that comment addresses my work on moral theory.
    Address my work. Not some sort of weird completely unrelated whatever.
    CONCLUSION – E
    Whatever your moral theory is, it is too fragile to interact with other moral theories which might contradict it.
    ME
    Or here’s a nice little piece from Russell Blackford’s review of Sam Harris, again eminently sensible – these must also be false if moral realism is true, so it should be easy to succinctly point out the errors as well:
    http://jetpress.org/v21/blackford3.htm
    YOU
    Not a single thing in that comment addresses my work on moral theory.
    Address my work. Not some sort of weird completely unrelated whatever.
    CONCLUSION – F
    Whatever your moral theory is, it is too fragile to interact with other moral theories which might contradict it.
    OVERALL CONCLUSIONS YOU – A
    “Not a single thing in that comment addresses my work on moral theory.
    Address my work. Not some sort of weird completely unrelated whatever.”
    and
    “Pigliucci never even addressed my arguments. By his own admission, he has never even read them.”
    and
    “a correct summary of my argument (an actual peer reviewed argument in formal logic in fact).”
    and
    “my moral theory chapter was peer reviewed by four noted professors of philosophy”
    and
    “Read my chapter on this in TEC, and for further understanding following its scholarly bibliography”
    and
    “To understand how this plays out in practice, read my chapter in TEC. Then respond to that.”
    and
    “So here is a test: there are syllogisms at the end of my chapter in TEC. Identify any step in those syllogisms that is fallacious, or any premise in them that is not known to be true.
    Then we can proceed with a useful discussion of whether I am right.
    If you cannot do that, then you must concede you are wrong. Because you then must admit you are faced with a logically valid and sound argument, and can find no flaw in it.”
    OVERALL CONCLUSIONS ME – A
    Whatever your moral theory is, it cannot be stated succinctly in plain English, such as a few sentences, only referred back to itself to support itself, has been peer reviewed by four philosophers in a ‘popular’ book, is buried inside syllogisms which if logical are valid even if it has zero applicability to the real world, which as a simple example is powerless to determine if Mitt Romney is a moral person or not, and which is too fragile to interact with other moral theories which might contradict it,
    but also because:
    ME
    You can tout your list of philosophers, I can too – in addition to Pigliucci. Joyce, and Blackford, there is Michael Sandel, JL Mackie, Alex Rosenberg, Dan Dennett, Shelly Kagan just to name a few off the top of my head who essentially hold variants of these views. I think essentially Stephen Pinker would be another as well. I’m just trying to help you not pursue silly projects that won’t go anywhere.
    YOU
    (silence)
    and
    ME
    I also note you didn’t answer, if this is such a slam dunk, why do so many philosophers think a scientific basis for morality is a non-starter. So it’s not just Pigliucci or me you have a beef with, but a large body of philosophers, scientists and philosophy some of whom I’ve mentioned. Forget about me, what are they not seeing? I’ll try to look into the works you suggest, honestly I don’t know what I’ll find that will address these concerns.
    YOU
    (silence)
    OVERALL CONCLUSION ME – B
    YOU
    According to you, I am:
    a person claimed to act “like a fundamentalist Christian”
    a person claimed to be “stuck in your delusions forever”
    a person claimed to be “Bad SkepticTM”
    “a horrid person”
    “Just like Young Earth Creationists”
    “acting like a douche”
    a person claimed to “follow like a lemming whatever the majority votes for”
    a person claimed who should “feel your skin go cold”
    a person claimed as “being on the wrong side of history”
    a person claimed to wear a “tinfoil hat”
    a person claimed to be “acting like a Christian apologist”
    a person claimed to “Continuing to harp from the armchair at something you’ve never read and know nothing about just makes you into yet another pseudoscientist like any creationist or climate science denier or anti-vaxxer. Making excuses for acting just like yet another pseudoscientist like any creationist or climate science denier or anti-vaxxer does not change the fact that you are acting like yet another pseudoscientist like any creationist or climate science denier or anti-vaxxer. And if that’s what you want to act like, then your epistemology is self-damning to all observing this conversation”
    and many many many more ….
    ME
    After all I could be the most wrongiest, beastliest psychopathically stupid, incipid deluded conspiracy laden pseudoskeptic atheistic creationist hack that walks the planet, but all of this does not add even the minutest bit of rational or empirical validity to any of your arguments (even though I have own set of creds including peer reviewed publications, choose not to brag on and parade them like a peacock, can’t say more lest I get the Abbie Smith (erv) harassment treatment, don’t need that, thank you very much).
    And all of this does not change the fact that you seem to display personal that can easily be mistaken for:
    Intellectual cowardice in the use of insults, taunts, humiliation and ridicule as cheap tactics in intellectual discourse to evade actual legitimate criticism, intellectual laziness toward ideas you are unaware of and refuse to become aware of, unconscious solipsism in constantly making references to your arguments, your past blog posts as if they are the only things that matter, petty narcissism in viewing any disagreement as a personal affront and the need to see opponents in the worst possible light, dismissal or refusal to read arguments that involve personal cognitive dissonance (such as “weird completely unrelated whatever”, or “I’m sorry, I am not getting your point,” or “I am not clear on the relevance of this remark here. What’s your point?” – we know evasive faux bullshit when we see it, you got the point you just don’t like the point, or prefer not to see the point just like you say I don’t), petty need to find logical fallacies in everything instead of engaging in actual arguments – or in your own words in your super duper peer reviewed paper – “fundamentally egoism,” I am right, don’t you know, seems to be your one true consistent philosophy even if it can only be expressed properly in syllogism.
    But not:
    Compassion (Ouch!).
    What does your moral philosophy say about that? Like Romney it can’t address it.
    OVERALL CONCLUSIONS YOU – B
    YOU – THEN
    For years I argued that there might not have been a Big Bang, since the evidence for it was rather poor. I encountered as a result a sea of snobbery and condescension from physicists. I encountered bias and closed-mindedness, and this was all the more reason to go on record against it.
    YOU – NOW
    (Inference)
    Snobbery, condescension, bias and closed-mindedness (talk about projection!!!) are OK since my one true theory of moral realism is true, don’t you know, it has logically complete syllogisms that four philosophers reviewed in a “popular” book, don’t you know. No need to engage with the likes of philosophers and scientists like Pigliucci. Joyce, Blackford, Sandel, Mackie, Rosenberg, Dennett, Kagan, Pinker and countless others great or small in the present or past or even like minded philosophers and scientists like Shermer and Harris since I’ve demonstrated they are wrong because they didn’t read my paper, since again I have the one true four philosopher syllogistically complete theorem – don’t you know. Just read my paper and if you don’t find one bad syllogism, then my paper is the one true theory even if it can’t be expressed in plain English.
    ME
    See, I let you have the last word. That’s what you want and have the deepest craving for most of all. That is why it takes days to reply to my posts. It is too painful to let a comment stand un-replied to. It cannot see the light of day until it is put in its proper place in the most insulting and one sided manner possible.
    YOU
    (Inference)
    You are an extremely obsessive disturbed individual, have you ever considered psychiatric help?
    ME
    In your words I am quite able to “maximize … personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing …. actuarial risk of failure, … to behave a certain way,” at least so far, thank you very much.
    If this dialog bothers you so much, why did you write in an even more obsessive way about Bart Ehrman.
    ME
    Lastly, why did you say this:
    “You decide. Watch my video. Compare it to his. And vote up the one you think is actually doing something good for the atheist movement.”
    If voting isn’t truth –
    Why did you say this?
    Why did you say this?
    “You decide. Watch my video. Compare it to his. And vote up the one you think is actually doing something good for the atheist movement.”
    Why did you say this?
    Why did you say this?
    Simple question.
    “You decide. Watch my video. Compare it to his. And vote up the one you think is actually doing something good for the atheist movement.”
    Why did you say this?
    One more time.
    “You decide. Watch my video. Compare it to his. And vote up the one you think is actually doing something good for the atheist movement.”
    Why did you say this?
    YOU
    (silence)
    ME
    Why didn’t you respond to this:
    (iii) a person publicly upset, filled with ire and obsessed with a prominent scholar Bart Ehrman’s refusal to review and engage your Jesus Myth theories (or any prominent scholar engagement to the point that you review Amazon commentary) according to your own long winded detailed multiple blog posts on the subject, yet in a debate with none other than the infamous William Lane Craig, you were embarrassed, seemed ill prepared given that his tactics and shtick are so well known so should have known better and as such, decisively lost according to consensus online opinion,
    No rebuttal, no rebuttal, no rebuttal, no rebuttal, no rebuttal, no rebuttal. Bart Ehrman, Bart Ehrman, Amazon comments, Bart Ehrman, Bart Ehrman, Amazon comments, Amazon comments, Bart Ehrman, Bart Ehrman, Bart Ehrman.
    YOU
    (silence)
    ——————————————————————————
    RESPONSE TO THIS POST
    YOU
    (silence)
    or
    (expletive, epithet, ad hominem)
    or
    (I can’t post this because I can’t respond cuz teh truth hurts, my brain hurts if I read something that I disagree with)
    or
    (I can’t post this because it’s OK to do this to Ehrman, but not to me, integrity is at stake)
    ME
    I guess I win, wow, whoda thunk it. Intellectually slayed the great Richard Carrier!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rendered him utterly speechless.
    ME
    Cutting to the chase.
    As far as I can tell in my reading your philosophy is a form of libertarianism, an argument that was never rebutted just ridiculed, when I was about 18 I had read all the Ayn Rand books and saw it for the bullshit it was, can spot bullshit when I see it, this philosophy would fit in quite nicely with objectivism, I could demonstrate this with painstaking sickening detail, but won’t bother, I read the paper, I know what your paper is all about, but even if you don’t want to call it libertarianism, it finds itself hiding in pretentious language in the end provides what is at best trivial and trite truisms, the syllogism bullshit is just a smokescreen and we all know it, the whole philosophy is total bullshit as anything novel and that is why you are really evasive about it if your honest and you and I know it, vacuous meaningless bullshit, the game theory nonsense is just a smokescreen to hide its empty content in mathematical mumbo jumbo, and you and I know it, anyone can invent syllogisms that don’t mean a goddamn thing in the real world, actual real moral philosophers and scientists don’t take your moral philosophy seriously and you and I know it, and that’s really why you sneer and whine and are dismissive of the real giants in the field, because you have, in the end, nothing at all to offer but personal jealousy. The very idea that you could write one paper on moral philosophy in a “popular” book and settle moral issues for all time that have been debated for centuries. Only a hyper delusional person or utter moron would fall for that. What piffle. Truth hurts.

    • What does any of that long, irrelevant rant have to do with my syllogisms in TEC?

      I am asking you to find any flaw…a faulty premise or step of logic…in the syllogisms in TEC.

      If you refuse to do that, you are conceding you can’t.

      And that means you have just lost the argument. You are acting like a creationist who refuses to look at evidence or listen to reason, and instead of responding to what the evolutionist says, just rants irrelevantly on things the evolutionist didn’t say, and never on any of the evidence or argument the evolutionist herself presented.

      That’s how you are behaving.

      And it’s shameful.

    • You are the one engaging in sophistry.

      I ask you to address the actual argument you claim to be addressing.

      You refuse.

      I ask you to identify the flaw in my formal argument.

      You refuse.

      And you call asking for evidence (in this case, of an error in my argument) sophistry.

      That’s sophistry.

  38. Disgraceful?

    So, a not even wrong theory, that can’t be spoken about in plain English, that hides in syllogistic solipsism, that can’t determine if Mitt Romney is moral or not, that doesn’t interact with other ideas, that nobody knows about, can tell me that I am disgraceful? What does disgraceful even mean – is it a moral term or not.

    Define “disgraceful” using the syllogism in your moral theory. Otherwise I don’t know what you are talking about.

    While your at it, define “creationist” and why it is immoral with a syllogism.

    How am I supposed to react to things that aren’t properly proved with a syllogism, and peer reviewed by four professors in the back of a “popular” book.

    Why didn’t moral facts about the universe prevent me from being disgraceful.

    Case not proven.

    • This is just more excuses for refusing to engage in any rational argument.

      Find the fallacy or false premise in my actual argument.

      If you cannot, you cannot.

      You lose.

      It’s that simple. So either do it, or concede you can’t.

  39. Just for grins I examined your argument 1- nothing wrong with the argument but it is vacuous and contentless, effectively not ever wrong just as I expected.

    M = a moral system = what exactly is that
    s = superseding system of imperatives = what makes something an imperative
    v = what we ought to obey = how do we determine that, where is the umpf
    B = sufficient motivating reason = what is it
    T = true moral system = what makes a moral system transform into a true moral system – is it like the resurrection
    M = moral system we ought to obey = how are oughts enforced like natural selection

    Also where is the umpf that makes this moral system drive behavior, ie objective like other physical laws like gravity.

    This is almost as bad as Anselm’s ontological argument. The shadow puppet show is over. You shouldn’t have compelled me to try to read this. Now you have no legs to stand on.

    No wonder you couldn’t answer – Is Romney Moral, properly formulated you could prove Machiavelli, Hitler or Stalin moral with these open ended premises.

    I was right when I said, “anyone can invent syllogisms that don’t mean a goddamn thing in the real world” without knowing it. The magic show is over.

    I could go through the other “proofs” if you like. Do you want further embarrassment? Perhaps I’ll agree that there are no logical fallacies, if it would make you happy. But empty bullshit doesn’t do anybody any good either. Maybe I can prove that colorless green ideas sleep furiously, while I’m at it.

    No wonder you can’t explain your theory in plain English, or answer why Romney is moral or not. There’s nothing to be explained or the theory can be tailored to explain everything, therefore it explains nothing. No wonder you can’t compare your theory to other theories. There is no theory to compare to other theories. Now I fully understand the silence of your responses, sorry I wasn’t in on the joke.

    It’s like the joke, what is greater than god, meaner that the devil, a thing poor people have and rich people want.

    Nothing.

    • but it is vacuous and contentless, effectively not ever wrong just as I expected.

      This is self-contradictory. You just conceded Argument 1 is not wrong.

      The conclusion of Argument 1 is:

      [I]f there is any moral system at all, then that which we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems is the true moral
      system.

      So, you just agreed that statement is true. That statement is not vacuous or contentless. It substantively establishes a key premise in the later arguments. I’ll hold you now to what you said: you have just said this conclusion is true.

      Progress. Now what about Arguments 2 through 5?

      Instead of blathering on about irrelevancies again (as you now just did), find any flaw in Arguments 2 through 5.

      If you cannot, you cannot.

      In which case, concede.

      Everything else is sophistry.

  40. Morality is only Rational Self Interest

    This does entail that morality can only ever be an exercise in self-interest (and moral values only ever really exist in the minds of the people who hold them), but contrary to popular worry, that fact does not make an inadequate ground for morality. To the contrary, no other ground for morality is even logically possible—once you define “the true morality” as a moral system, we have a sufficient motivating reason to obey. And since, as a matter of actual physical fact, we will never obey any other (unless we are irrational or uninformed, but even then upon becoming rational and informed we will obey no other), there is no other kind of “morality” that matters. In other words, to argue that by “morality” you mean something we ought to do but that we have no sufficient motivating reason to prefer doing to something else, is simply to avoid the question of what in actual fact we ought to do.

    Richard Carrier (Note – this is the essential philosophical claim of what morality is in your paper in your words – deny it and you deny your own words)

    Just as man cannot survive by any random means, but must discover and practice the principles which his survival requires, so man’s self-interest cannot be determined by blind desires or random whims, but must be discovered and achieved by the guidance of rational principles. This is why the Objectivist ethics is a morality of rational self-interest—or of rational selfishness.

    Ayn Rand

    Caveats————————————————-

    Since we will only ever do what we most want to do, because that is by definition what it means to choose to do one thing rather than another (a point I’ll illustrate below), our focus should not be in trying to deny this fundamental egoism. Rather, we should focus on ensuring all moral agents are operating rationally and with sufficient information. Because when we do, scientific facts come to bear that establish quite strongly that self-interest does not entail selfishness, self-centeredness, hedonism, or indifference. To the contrary, rational self-interest entails quite the opposite, that the cultivation of the personally enduring virtues of compassion, integrity, and reasonableness (at the very minimum) is necessary for your own
    happiness and well-being.

    Richard Carrier

    When one speaks of man’s right to exist for his own sake, for his own rational self-interest, most people assume automatically that this means his right to sacrifice others. Such an assumption is a confession of their own belief that to injure, enslave, rob or murder others is in man’s self-interest—which he must selflessly renounce. The idea that man’s self-interest can be served only by a non-sacrificial relationship with others has never occurred to those humanitarian apostles of unselfishness, who proclaim their desire to achieve the brotherhood of men. And it will not occur to them, or to anyone, so long as the concept “rational” is omitted from the context of “values,” “desires,” “self-interest” and ethics.

    Ayn Rand

    ——————————————————

    See what I mean – this is libertarianism or a modified form of Objectivism and by implication, Mitt Romney is a moral person, according to this philosophy. Like I said I could find many other parallel statements if I wanted.

  41. Example of a contradiction in your paper

    “Only “internalist” moral systems come with sufficient motives to care about them and thus to prefer obeying them to other competing moral systems (because that’s what distinguishes internalism from externalism in the first place: an intrinsic motive to obey).”

    OK morality needs to come from an intrinsic, internal derived set of motives, not an external imposed set of motives.

    And also,

    “In effect, moralists might want to “call” their externalist systems “the true morality,” but such a claim is vacuous because we will still have a better reason to do something else instead.”

    But wait,

    “You cannot decide a priori what is morally true, and then judge the results of an inquiry to be invalid simply because those results don’t agree with your preconceived notion of what is moral. If they have unarguable, empirical facts supporting their every claim, it’s simply irrational to persist in maintaining they are wrong. To the contrary, they will
    have thereby proved you are wrong.”

    and

    “But if it’s true, it’s true. We must conform our beliefs to what we discover, not reject all
    discoveries that fail to conform to our beliefs.”

    So external derived moral systems are fictions, but if science somehow was able to discover a true empirically derived moral system even if it violates our internal motives, we should adopt this externally derived system and replace our internal derived system, even if we have no intrinsic motivation to obey it or it violently opposes our intrinsic motives to obey. Some external systems are fictions and others are not.

    This is a direct contradiction. It is also the Alice objection, pointed out by Russell Blackford.

    • Attend to the syllogisms first. Then we can talk about connotations of the colloquial English.

      No more handwaving fallacies.

      [If you did this as instructed, you would know by now that "if science somehow was able to discover a true empirically derived moral system even if it violates our internal motives" is a logical contradiction, consequently the condition can never be met, even in principle. But if you doubt that, prove it: find the error in the syllogisms that entail it.]

  42. Your Argument is valid logically, feel better. But the premises are as vague as leprechauns and wide as mack trucks, I’ll concede that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is valid logically too. It’s just that itty bitty premises like “begins to exist” and “causes” are just a little bit in question.

  43. Also substitute the term “moral system” with “divine commands” and “moral” with “command” you also have an airtight logical Argument 1.

    Thus…..

    [I]f there are any divine commands at all, then that which we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems is the true set of divine commands.

    • Also substitute the term “moral system” with “divine commands” and “moral” with “command” you also have an airtight logical Argument 1.

      Wrong.

      That creates an unsound argument. Premise 1.1 is then false (or ceases to be demonstrably true), if you make that substitution. Therefore, you can’t make that substitution.

    • P.S. If you really want to see what happens when you do that, see my peer reviewed paper on exactly that: Richard Carrier, “On the Facts as We Know Them, Ethical Naturalism Is All There Is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan,” Philo 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2012): 200-11.

  44. [If you did this as instructed, you would know by now that "if science somehow was able to discover a true empirically derived moral system even if it violates our internal motives" is a logical contradiction, consequently the condition can never be met, even in principle. But if you doubt that, prove it: find the error in the syllogisms that entail it.]

    What are you saying, people do what they do because their internal motives tell them what they do, and science can never contradict this.

    What Romney does, he does due to his internal motives. Science cannot discover stuff that violates his internal motives, because that would be a logical contradiction, it would not be empirical, after all Romney is doing it for his own intrinsic motivating reasons, science cannot discovered something moral that violates his intrinsic motives because it would be an external thing that isn’t the internal motive that drives Romney. Therefore it is impossible for science to discover empirically a superior set of internal motivations to that which Romney is already doing, based on his DNA, cultural, and environmental mileu he inhabits. Science only tells us what our true internal motives are. This is what I’ve been saying all along repeatedly. We can describe behavior, even moral behavior, and we can call it objective if you like in the sense that it exists, and it is evolved, but that is it.

    If I conceded your whole argument – a true moral system is one in which we have sufficient motivating reasons to obey above all others, where does it get us – nowhere. Romney thinks he has sufficient moral reasons for his behaviors, given the factors mentioned, therefore he behaves as such. So does everybody else, for that matter, unless insane or mentally impaired. People act in general on what they consciously or unconsciously derive as sufficient reasons for their actions. If they knew ahead of time the reason wasn’t sufficient, they wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

    Everyone at all times as you say, have these internal motivations you describe which guide behaviors. Moral ideas that don’t jive with these internal motives however noble, are seen as external and rejected or ignored.

    If your saying science can come up with broad generalities of what these internal motivations are, I agree. If you want to call these internal motivations, objective, fine if you like that terminology, even if I prefer the term evolved, adaptive, natural etc, because it avoids the strong connotations.

    But if all we are doing is scientifically discovering these internal motivations, what does this do. It is helpful in understanding things, but it is far more modest that you seem to imply. We can understand why hungry bears eat baby cubs, why Hitler and the Nazi’s killed millions of Jews in the Holocaust, why slavery persisted for millenia, what the internal motives of human behavior plus environmental and cultural conditions motivated this behavior, all scientific.

    So everyone at least thinks they operate with “sufficient motivating reason to obey” all the time, it is the same as “internal movtivation,” because if it was not, the motivations would manifest themselves as other behaviors. We can scientifically discover how these things change through evolving zeitgeists. But at any given moment people are operating with “internal motivations” which people perceive that they have “sufficient motivation reason to obey” otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it.

    If that is what your saying, that’s fine but it is just a description of reality, using the term “morality” in a way that most people don’t use it.

  45. If there is a set of divine commands, then these divine commands are a set of imperatives that supersede other imperatives.

    How is this a contradiction.

    If the divine sky daddy tells you to do something, you better damn well do it. Divine commandments are divine = perfect, by definition they supersede other imperatives, if such a divine being exists.

    • How is this a contradiction.

      I said “Premise 1.1 is then false (or ceases to be demonstrably true).” Therefore it renders Argument 1 unsound. That a moral system must be a system of imperatives that supersedes all imperatives is true. That divine commands are such a system is unknown. So you have substituted an unknown premise for a premise that was known to be true. Thus reducing the argument to the state of being unsound. That’s why it doesn’t work.

      So you need an argument, with premises known to be true, that validly arrives at the conclusion “divine commands are a set of imperatives that supersede other imperatives.” You have not presented one. You have not demonstrated that it is even probable that divine commandments exist or that they are perfect (in any relevant sense) or that they are true. So, you can’t get there from here.

      When we look for an argument that is valid and sound, we get Argument 2.

      But “divine commands are a set of imperatives that supersede other imperatives” contradicts Argument 2.

      Therefore “divine commands are a set of imperatives that supersede other imperatives” is not only unknown, it is demonstrably false. And so demonstrated by the very arguments you are supposed to be reading. Yet clearly aren’t.

      Again, I demonstrate this contradiction in my paper in Philo. Hence I referred you to that.

  46. ARGUMENT 1: THAT IF THERE IS A TRUE MORAL SYSTEM, IT IS THAT WHICH WE HAVE A
    SUFFICIENTLY MOTIVATING REASON TO OBEY OVER ALL OTHERS

    Definitions:
    m = a moral system.

    I concede there are moral systems. Lots of them, even if they mutually contradict each other.

    s = a system of imperatives that supersede all other imperatives.

    s is just a definition at this point, so lets move on.

    1.1. If there is m, then m is s.

    This claims that a moral system – is only a system of imperatives, or that said moral system makes claims about its imperatives that supersede all other imperatives. There can be imperatives that supercede other imperatives in certain cases but not others. Don’t kill except in cases of self defense might be one. So there may be a lot of caveats here. For the sake of argument, well go on.

    v = what we ought to obey over all other imperative systems (whether they are labeled moral or not).

    All moral systems contain oughts in one form or another. How would you begin to evaluate v. I take “imperative systems” to mean other moral systems. Problem 1 – how do we determine the criteria for “ought to obey” and how many of the sea of potential imperative systems to we apply this criteria for. Ought to obeys in moral systems are circular, you start out with an arbitrary reason why you ought to obey it and then you assert that you ought to obey it. Then you can find out how well your oughts work, but it is still against an arbitrary standard you put forth for this ought. Except for trivial cases, I don’t think you can practically find this set of “oughts.”

    1.2. If m is s, then m is v.

    This would be true if v exists, but that is in question.

    B = that which we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems.

    Again B has a criteria problem and a problem of figuring out which imperative system to evaluate it against. What makes as sufficiently motivating reason – are they biological and cultural inherent reasons people already have or a set of reasons we should have if we want to obtain some moral goal. I don’t see how this could practically be determined, and would be against an arbitrary criteria like v.
    1.3. v is B.

    This is one I didn’t catch earlier, don’t see how this follows. How is what we ought to obey, the same as a sufficient motivating reason to obey, they could be different things. Sufficient motivating reasons could be a subset of things we ought to obey for example, so they wouldn’t be the same.

    1.4. Therefore, if there is m, then m is B.

    Obviously this would follow logically if the other premises are true.

    T = the true moral system.

    This is an utter leap of faith. How would one even begin to decide what this true moral system is? How do we evaluate that this is true versus all other moral systems, and what arbitrary criteria do we impose to evaluate this.

    M = the moral system that, in actual fact, we ought to obey.

    Another leap of faith, how do we “in actual fact,” know that this is the moral system we “ought to obey.” What criteria compels that we ought to obey it?

    1.5. m is T iff m is M.

    If T and M actually exist in the cosmos and are discoverable, I suppose this would be true.

    1.6. M is B.

    I’m not sure this is necessarily true. M is B* might be more accurate. If M is the be all and end all of moral systems, it might include things that m is B does not include.

    1.7. Therefore, m is B, and m is B iff m is M; and m is M, iff m is T. (i.e., if 1.4,1.5, and 1.6, then 1.7)

    The little m is graduating to big M and big T. Again this may not follow if M is B*.

    1.8. Therefore, T is B. (i.e., if 1.6 and 1.7, then 1.8)

    Follows logically.

    1.9. Therefore, if there is m, then there is T. (i.e., if 1.4 and 1.8, then 1.9)

    1.10. Therefore, if there is m, then there is T, and B is T.

    Follows logically.

    Therefore, if there is any moral system at all, then that which we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems is the true moral system.

    I doubt v and B if they exist are discoverable, and even if T and B exist they would be even harder to discover. v and B would need a large inclusive set of moral systems to evaluate against, and an arbitrary evaluation criteria who should decide – Sam Harris or you? T and B would be that much harder to discover. It’s strange to say B is objective, a better term would be evolved or adaptive moral trait.

    And even if you discovered and found all these things, it would be irrelevant, because there would be no way to enforce this optimal morality on humanity. The pitiless indifferent universe doesn’t care if humans are moral or not. Some people could try to live by these more enlightened moral principles, but like the hawk/dove ESS, hawks would invade and destroy the more morally enlightened doves. Like I said there is no objective moral force in the universe that compels behavior like gravity.

    • You really love handwaving. It’s your favorite fallacy.

      I asked you to find an invalid step or an untrue premise.

      You fail to even try to do that. You just rant irrelevantly with pointless commentary on each premise. That’s not how logic works.

      Case in point…

      “I don’t think you can practically find this set of “oughts.””

      That’s not what Argument 1 says anything about. That is proved in Argument 5. Please pay attention to the argument you are addressing.

      This would be true if v exists, but that is in question.

      That’s not what Argument 1 says anything about. That is proved in Arguments 2, 3, and 4 (in ever-increasing circles: root, individual, group). Please pay attention to the argument you are addressing.

      Again B has a criteria problem and a problem of figuring out which imperative system to evaluate it against.

      That’s not what Argument 1 says anything about. That is proved in Argument 2. Please pay attention to the argument you are addressing.

      How would one even begin to decide what this true moral system is?

      That’s not what Argument 1 says anything about. That is proved in Arguments 2, 3, and 4. Please pay attention to the argument you are addressing.

      Another leap of faith, how do we “in actual fact,” know that this is the moral system we “ought to obey.” What criteria compels that we ought to obey it?

      That’s not what Argument 1 says anything about. That is proved in Arguments 2, 3, and 4. Please pay attention to the argument you are addressing.

      These all tell me that you do not understand how to read a syllogism. This syllogism is establishing what must be true, if certain other things are true. The later arguments then prove those other things are true. That you didn’t get this shows me you have no skill in reading or critiquing a logical argument. This can be remedied. Just pay more attention.

      You only make a couple of at least relevant remarks:

      1.3. v is B.
      This is one I didn’t catch earlier, don’t see how this follows. How is what we ought to obey, the same as a sufficient motivating reason to obey, they could be different things. Sufficient motivating reasons could be a subset of things we ought to obey for example, so they wouldn’t be the same.

      So to translate your verbosity into a more efficient language: you don’t think premise 1.3 is known to be true.

      Let’s translate premise 1.3:

      What we ought to obey over all other imperative systems (whether they are labeled moral or not) is that which we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems.

      That’s true by definition. These are synonyms. To see why, apply the law of identity:

      That which we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems is what we ought to obey over all other imperative systems (whether they are labeled moral or not).

      Since you cannot deny this statement is true (it is essentially just the definition of a true ought statement), you cannot deny 1.3 is true.

      I suspect you are still hung up on not understanding Argument 1, which is not proving that B exists, only what B is if it does exist. Again, that B exists is proved by later Arguments in the sequence. Please pay attention to the argument you are addressing.

      Or possibly you want to defend a rival definition of “true ought.” I find it would be meaningless to say x is what you ought to do but you have no sufficiently motivating reason to do x. Because there is no demonstrable sense in which that statement can be true. For example, try finding one. Whereas, an x we do have sufficiently motivating reason to do can easily be found. So we have magical unicorns or horses. One exists, the other doesn’t. Which one’s existence is then true? That’s 1.3. To continue the analogy, if you can prove a magical unicorn exists, then you can prove 1.3 false. So, do that, or concede 1.3 isn’t false.

      (That means finding an x we truly ought to do even though we have no sufficiently motivating reason to do it. Knowing that there will be a y that we have a sufficiently motivating reason to do. Between those two ought statements, the one we actually have sufficient reason to obey obviously supersedes the one we don’t have sufficient reason to obey. QED.)

      1.6. M is B.
      I’m not sure this is necessarily true. M is B* might be more accurate. If M is the be all and end all of moral systems, it might include things that m is B does not include.

      If B does not include x, then by the definition of B we do not have a sufficiently motivating reason to do x. Therefore, x can never be in M. Because M can only be true if we have a sufficiently motivating reason to do it. So there is no possible way “M….might include things that…B does not include.”

      Right?

      Please pay attention. By the law of identity, if m is B, then B is m. And B includes (by definition) everything we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all
      other imperative systems. The rest follows.

      So the only two comments you made that even pertained to questioning premises in Argument 1 were both false. Those premises are demonstrably true. And you offered no objections to what they actually say.

      Right?

      So let’s try this again: do you agree with the following statement:

      If there is any moral system at all, then that which we have a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems is the true moral system.

      And if not, which part don’t you agree with? Find that part in the syllogism, and present a valid reason to object to the step in reasoning or the premise involved.

      You should have figured out by now that the only way you can deny this statement is if you can demonstrate the existence of a TRUE moral system that we DO NOT HAVE a sufficiently motivating reason to obey over all other imperative systems.

      Good luck with that. Because such a thing is nonsensical.

      But do try.

  47. Wow, found a couple things I didn’t notice before from Massimo’s critique of you.

    He says you said:
    “[He says, and I quote: “Academic peer review (for books and journals in philosophy) simply does not look for, nor even rewards, best cases. They just publish any rubbish that meets their minimal standards (and those standards are not very high, relatively to where they could be).”]”

    If you said this, sounds contradictory to everything you have expressed so far about academic peer review. I guess you say different things, depending on your audience, like a politician.

    “I take it that he is telling us about the most overriding values of said agent because he wants to use such values as the basis for his concept of morality (as in: a behavior is moral if it maximizes the agent’s well-being and reduces his suffering). He doesn’t actually say so, hence my suspicion above that there are hidden premises and further clarifications needed to make his argument fly. But surely this is a very particular, and highly debatable, conception of morality. Indeed — dare I say it? — it sounds almost Randian (as in the infamous Ayn Rand)! (Boy, is Carrier not going to like this parallel!)”

    I guess I’m not the only one who noticed parallels with Ayn Rand!!!

    • Not at all. I have consistently agreed with you that peer review is not a guarantee of truth. It’s just better than lacking it. And unless you are committed to deploying a straw man fallacy, that means you have to address a peer reviewed version of someone’s argument, not a casual summary of it.

      Neither you nor Massimo did that. You both ignored my peer reviewed work. (You only started paying attention to it after I shamed you into doing it. Massimo evidently has no shame, so he couldn’t be shamed into doing it.) Thus, you both chose to use a straw man fallacy.

      No excuse you can make can escape this fact. You should be ashamed of having tried this. As Massimo should be ashamed.

      Now, you could try to save yourself by insisting that peer reviewed arguments aren’t better than casual summaries. But that would be condemning Massimo’s entire profession, and asserting a suicidal epistemic relativism, in which all arguments are equally good, and therefore straw man fallacies cannot exist even in principle.

      Good luck with that.

    • P.S. To illustrate how incompetent you are, and how easily duped you allow yourself to be, here is what Massimo lied about, and you bought it hook line and sinker. Like a creationist, he quote mined me. Here is the actual quotation:

      Because progress is not possible until you have the best case to examine (and accept or refute) for any position. Academic peer review (for books and journals in philosophy) simply does not look for, nor even rewards, best cases. They just publish any rubbish that meets their minimal standards (and those standards are not very high, relatively to where they could be).

      This doesn’t mean peer reviewed philosophy isn’t better than other philosophy. It generally is, at least in some respect worth the bother. But peer review standards in philosophy are also twisted and bizarre, excluding a lot of what actually is good philosophy simply because it doesn’t match some current fashion or irrelevant requirement. Whereas it is not as rigorous as it should be in policing fallacious, illogical, unscientific, or muddled argumentation. (And I am speaking as someone who has published academically peer reviewed papers in philosophy.)

      Notice the consistency of my view here in this thread with what I actually said there.

      Notice how Massimo hid that from you.

      Notice how you trusted him, and didn’t check the original source to see if he was accurately representing it.

  48. Another way to look at it – is if moral interactions are like playing chess or go, how we navigate society by interacting with other people, then the degrees of freedom involved in the search space for optimal solutions is prohibitively large. Just the first four moves of chess have 318 x 10^9 possible combinations, and 169 x 10^27 possible combinations according to one source.

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Secret-of-Chess&id=1717732

    There are probably far more potential human interactions than there are atoms in the universe by mind numbing proportions given that the so called Shannon number is 10^120 for different combinations of the game complexity of chess, when there is 10^80 atoms in the universe. Human interactions are far more complex than chess moves, so this number would be expected to be much much larger, effectively infinite.

    It may not be even possible to calculate what optimal human interactions would be, even if we used an arbitrary standard of measure such as human pain and pleasure to do it. The best we could do is find better or worse sets of strategies.

    So if some sort of optimal objective morality in the sense that it maximizes a defined outcome in human interactions, it is too complex to discover by any conceivable technology. Any morality we find is going to greatly underdetermine the search space by mind boggling orders of magnitude.

    It might be a nice paper exercise to imagine objective moralities, but discovering them is a whole other matter.

    • It may not be even possible to calculate what optimal human interactions would be

      If that were true, then no statements in economics or political or social science or even game theory would be true. And yet, alas, they are. Marketing agencies alone predict human behavior with remarkable skill.

      That the system is complex only tells you there are rates of unexpected outcomes. Those rates are measurable. Thus, for example, insurance companies can calculate the rate of death for all manner of human decisions. Even though the system is complex. And they don’t do this by trying to track every single causal interaction in the system, any more than physicists do thermodynamics by trying to track every single atom in a system.

      Thus, as you point out, if “the best we could do is find better or worse sets of strategies” then those are the morals. I actually explicitly say this myself in TEC (see pp. 424-25, n. 28, and 425-26, n. 34). You would know that if you had actually read it.

      The same goes for all imperative systems: the possible things that can happen in surgery or agriculture or architecture are vast beyond calculating; but we still can develop what’s right and wrong to do in them. That those rules will fail a certain amount of the time is simply a fact built into that system of rules. It is itself a consequence that is acknowledged, and dealt with (e.g. buying insurance, increasing redundancies, etc.).

      Thus, for example, no matter how complex a system is, we pretty well know what the effects are of lying, murder, suppressing free speech, slavery, etc. That sometimes the system might do weird things does not eliminate this knowledge, any more than the small probability we are just brains in a vat does.

      In short, if we can find best strategies in medicine, psychotherapy, engineering, agriculture, infrastructure design, policing, administrating, governing, and every other domain of human life, we can do the same in morality. That there will always be some things we don’t know is irrelevant to that fact. As irrelevant as it is in all those other domains of imperative knowledge.

  49. Morality is only Rational Self Interest
    In morality you have an unavoidable criteria problem – how do you measure what is or isn’t moral. You start with the Randian – rational self-interest.

    This does entail that morality can only ever be an exercise in self-interest (and moral values only ever really exist in the minds of the people who hold them), but contrary to popular worry, that fact does not make an inadequate ground for morality. To the contrary, no other ground for morality is even logically possible—once you define “the true morality” as a moral system, we have a sufficient motivating reason to obey. And since, as a matter of actual physical fact, we will never obey any other (unless we are irrational or uninformed, but even then upon becoming rational and informed we will obey no other), there is no other kind of “morality” that matters. In other words, to argue that by “morality” you mean something we ought to do but that we have no sufficient motivating reason to prefer doing to something else, is simply to avoid the question of what in actual fact we ought to do.

    But why start here, why not rational social, societal or global interest? What is rational about this starting point.

    “Likewise morality. If you want to maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way. That is an objective fact of the world, same as the laws governing surgery or bridge building.”

    What is rational about maximizing personal life satisfaction as a criteria for measurement. Sam Harris – pleasure and pain is also arbitrary. Detection of pain is essential for survival, even if it is quite painful. Any measuring stick you come up with is going to be arbitrary and subject to debate and disagreement.

    Also like I said, determining v, B, T, and M is going to be prohibitive to evaluate and optimize against any criteria, however arbitrary, given that the number of possible human social interactions with moral implications is practically infinity.

    Natural selection provides natural criteria of survival and reproduction to evaluate, but at the expense that the traits it produces can be quite nasty and immoral, but it works.

    Get it?

  50. Well, it should be obvious by now that the kind of feminists that MRAs pretend to oppose are not the anti-sexists and gender egalitarianists, but the female supremacists and separatists, who despise men and long to disenfranchise and enslave them, i. e., who view and treat men exactly the way MRAs view and treat women.

    “Why do you call it ‘feminism’ and not ‘humanism’ or ‘egalism’ if you don’t want special rights for women?!” (I am using italics as a substitute for Comic Sans here.)

    I also agree that it is bleedingly obvious that Glenn is fed MRA talking points and spouts them as unthinkingly as a Christian fundie keeps repeating apologetic and creationist fallacies over and over and over, at nauseam, all while trying really, really hard not to think them through. Because that would be a sin, of course.

    In practice, by all appearances, she does not differ fundamentally from sex-positive feminists (as shown by her agreement with Rad), apart (presumably) from the overly PC sounding stuff.

    That said, personally, I’m not a big fan of attempts to manipulate or police natural language à la gender-neutral or inclusive language or the like, either. Euphemism treadmill all the way. But if I must in order to be an ally or to differentiate myself sufficiently from the MRAs at the very least, I favour the generic feminine – justified also because biologically, “female” is indeed the default in certain ways, at least in humans. I prefer using an already established word like “she” to an assortment of rather inelegant neologisms, personally, although people are of course free to use any neologistic pronoun they like. Since I’m not obsessed with my “manliness” and with defending any perceived attacks on it, I really don’t mind being referred to “she” or a “lady” in certain contexts, whether only implicitly or even explicitly, and if pronouns were not only gendered but also “racialised”, I really wouldn’t resent the implication that I’m black or a POC either even if I don’t identify as such, nor am identified as such by others (but again, biologically speaking, my distant ancestors were dark-skinned too at some point, so “generic non-white” actually makes more sense than “generic white”), and in fact am pale as a sheet. Hey, it’s only language, isn’t it? Why take offence at something so inconsequential as the wrong pronoun … heh, look, it works both ways, privileged angry white dudes.

    So I’m not sure why a “political correctness gone mad!” point like gender-inclusive language should bother anti-feminists so much. Might be because I don’t feel particularly “manly”, and have never felt so. Or because I’m not as insecure about my lack of manliness.

    The only point I can think of now that I’m concerned about is re-writing or suppressing historical books, films, cartoons and other media due to sexist, racist or other discriminatory content. But I trust that this point can be discussed with most activists. I’m not aware of activists trying to memory-hole the use of the word “Negro” in Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech – or even suppressing Mein Kampf, which happens to be something that only the Bavarian government tries to do … and that is certainly not because of “social justice warrior” tendencies, at worst they don’t want people to find out about Hitler’s Christian influences.

    If the “Womanosphere” (no, that’s not another word for Tumblr, dear Nutpickers) is all about oppressing men and taking their rights away (apart from their right to oppress women), as Glenn seems to believe, it is certainly not in evidence – unless you wear a tinfoil hat that enables you to see through the TRUE motives of Greta Christina et al., that is. Alas, I do not possess such a hat, so I must remain in the dark about what feminists truly believe in their heart of hearts, and rest assured that it will be finally revealed as soon as female world domination is eventually achieved and seemingly moderate feminists will unveil the hate harboured in their ugly, black hearts (even if not all feminists happen to be physically repulsive, their innermost core is dark and rotten, I have learned lately, so don’t be fooled by the likes of Christina Rad and Laci Green). Or so, kind of like any kind of Marxism, when granted power, can only end in a totalitarian dictatorship, as I was assured recently (my counter-example of post-war Germany unsurprisingly didn’t count because these were obviously No True Scotsmen).

  51. OK here’s another way to put it. One way of saying this is person A starts out with ma=deontology ethics, person B with mb=virtue ethics, and person c with mc=libertarianism, and person d with md=consequentialism, each with their own moral starting points and methodology for determining what is moral or not. Using your logic they all graduate to MA, MB, MC and MD, with optimal versions of DEONTOLOGY, VIRTUE ETHICS, CONSEQUENTIALISM and LIBERTARIANISM, blissfully unaware that had they started out with a different m, they would have ended up with a different M. In other words your assumptions of where you start from – the unit of morality – individual, society, world, and criteria for morality – happiness, suffering, will always be arbitrary and lead to arbitrarily different results, no matter how much mathematics you throw at it. Sure from a certain perspective, these things exist, but as far as nature goes they are cognitive fictions. They lead to divergent conclusions on the morality of abortion, private property, the death penalty, war, taxes, welfare state, animal rights, and all other moral disagreements in which there are no ultimate rational way to adjudicate what is moral or not, except from a certain arbitrary starting point and perspective.

    Asserting morality is objective is essentially inserting an artificial teleology into nature, moral goals that don’t really exist in nature, something Darwin banished in 1859. Some aspects of morality like kin selection and reciprocal altruism can be established because they link to survival and reproduction, real things. You can make up whatever artificial teleology you desire, and convince others that you have invented the coolest artificial teleology TM, but the only real value nature actually sees and acts on are survival and reproduction. It is teleology because you are saying we must do these things, something about nature makes this morality objective. But honesty, nature doesn’t demand that we do anything period, just if we don’t do certain things our genes won’t be passed on, and the behaviors including morality won’t be represented in the next generation. All nature sees is the survival and reproduction stuff. Big brained humans don’t escape this any more than ants or bacteria. Nature doesn’t care about happiness, pain or pleasure, only to the extent that it promotes survival and reproduction.

    The whole enterprise of starting out with an arbitrary unit of morality like “rational self interest” and an arbitrary goal like life satisfaction as in,

    “If you want to maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way. That is an objective fact of the world,”

    uses an arbitrary criteria, “life satisfaction,” to make m’s into M’s is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t have much to do with reality except from a predefined arbitrary perspective.

    When you, or someone rights a new Principia Ethica, which is more like the Principia Mathematica, with the same precision and rigor, perhaps I’ll pay more attention.

    ————————————–

    I also never pointed out that you are missing what the real issue with IS and OUGHT, just like you missed the boat and created a strawman about Christian ethics. It’s not that you can’t find hypothetical imperatives and derive an ought from an is for many simple cases like taking care of your car by changing oil once in a while. An OUGHT is a cognitive fiction, an imagining the world the way we want it to be as opposed to an, IS what the world actually is. If you’re trying to say OUGHTs don’t exist and it is really IS is IS, then in a way I agree. But the real distinction is that an OUGHT is a fiction, and IS isn’t.

    • I am going to continue ignoring your bloated handwaving fallacies.

      I told you to address my arguments. My actual arguments. I will only respond to comments that do that.

  52. “Thus, for example, no matter how complex a system is, we pretty well know what the effects are of lying, murder, suppressing free speech, slavery, etc. That sometimes the system might do weird things does not eliminate this knowledge, any more than the small probability we are just brains in a vat does.”

    All these things exist, nothing in nature cares to stop them, or stopped them in the past. We police and contain them at best. Morality hasn’t stopped the carnage in the Middle East to grow to over 200,000, or Israel and Hamas to kill innocent people over and over again. Nature allows Hitler’s as much as it allows Einstein’s to exist.

    “In short, if we can find best strategies in medicine, psychotherapy, engineering, agriculture, infrastructure design, policing, administrating, governing, and every other domain of human life, we can do the same in morality. That there will always be some things we don’t know is irrelevant to that fact. As irrelevant as it is in all those other domains of imperative knowledge.”

    Again these are all noble goals, but nature doesn’t care if human civilization flourishes in an egalitarian way, or turns in to a world where the 0.001% own and control 99.999% of everything, which seems to be the direction we are actually heading. No natural judge, or set of objective moral codes in the sky is likely to make one happen any more than the other. Just as there is no god judge, there’s no natural one either.

    • None of these remarks have anything to do with my point. Or my moral theory generally.

      This is yet one more example of you ignoring my actual arguments and engaging in handwaving fallacies instead.

  53. “The same goes for all imperative systems: the possible things that can happen in surgery or agriculture or architecture are vast beyond calculating; but we still can develop what’s right and wrong to do in them. That those rules will fail a certain amount of the time is simply a fact built into that system of rules. It is itself a consequence that is acknowledged, and dealt with (e.g. buying insurance, increasing redundancies, etc.).”

    I’m deeply skeptical of this, just because we have found some general rules of thumb doesn’t mean these are anywhere near understanding the deep principles behind these things. It’s just laziness to think the generalities we have now will be general for all time. I really think a lot of these rules of thumb are just delusions we use because reality is otherwise too complex to cope with otherwise, and they represent practical truths that work most of the time. There could be lots of things that are deeply wrong with our rules of thumb which future discoveries will unlock.

    • If you can’t know deep principles but can know rules of thumb, then morals are rules of thumb. QED.

      And if we learn something new that corrects what we knew in the past, we correct it. As in science, so in morality. QED.

      Again, you would know this if you were actually reading and addressing my actual arguments.

  54. You also miss a whole body of research which suggests for example conservatives and liberals think quite different about what is basic to morality and how to rank morals such as the work done by Jonathan Haidt. John Hibbing has furthered this work to suggest that there may be a biological basis to ideology. Are you prepared to declare that we can determine what is or isn’t in the realm of moraility, if there differences with respect to ideology, which are objective and which are not. If there is a biological basis to some of this ideology, which we should consider moral and which we should dismiss as primitive human instincts we should ignore. These are besides all the issues associated with differences associated with major and minor schools of metaethics.

    I think it is much easier to come up with a defensible rational set of ethics, based on a defensible starting point and defensible moral goals, and leave it at that. The rush to objectify morals, is akin to the authoritarian urge to objectify race and sex differences, and the authoritarian urges of religions. Trying to come up with a set of objective ethics, seems akin to come up with a secular equivalent of the divine command theory. It isn’t possible, but it isn’t actually necessary. There are plenty of ways to come up with principled defensive rational ethical systems (hence the major schools of metaethics) without insisting that mine and mine alone is the be all and end all of objective ethics. We can come up with different ethical systems fight on which is better based on our rational starting points, and agree to disagree in some areas, without declaring that we are objective and you are subjective, when in the end we all have an inevitable degree of subjectivity when it comes to morality.

  55. Is abortion moral or not?

    One extreme position is that once the egg and sperm unite, under any condition such as rape or incest or health of the mother, the woman cannot have an abortion, even if she dies.

    Another extreme is that until the baby is delivered, regardless of the health of the fetus, a woman has unilateral rights to abort the fetus even if the reason is she just feels like it.

    There are people who take either of these extreme positions, and numerous in between positions, like saying a woman should be able to abort the baby until the end of the second trimester, but only in the third trimester if her health is in danger. The inbetween’s include what rights or bearing if any should parents as well as males involved with the pregnancy have on these decisions, and if there are special cases if the fetus is determined to have known genetic disorders like Down’s syndrome, as well as many others.

    This is a “hot bed” issue obviously, but most moral disputes center on these type of issues, with little to no sign of resolution by reason or any other means. I don’t see how one can come up with an “objective” morality about abortion, can you? It inevitably depends on your views of what constitutes human life, the rights of a mother, as well as other factors. We can come up with principled positions, but the morality of it is going to depend on our assumptions on what constitutes a moral act, which have an inevitable degrees of subjectivity to them.

  56. One last comment about your comments on peer reviewed publications. While you are technically correct that you have had a consistent position, what you have said up to now has been highly misleading. You lent the impression that peer reviewed publications were generally way above reproach and general articles were rubbish. The truth is somewhere in between. There can be good and bad examples of both. Scientists write popular books all the time, many of them very influential in the field even if written in a popular style like The Selfish Gene.

    Actually I have more respect for your actual more gritty views about published literature. Having spent years in the bowels of research in graduate school I can say quite plainly that much research is quite repetitive, much of it really doesn’t say anything that is novel, and even more interesting you’ll find out and out contradictory findings on major issues from competing labs ( besides the fact that as you mention some of it will be inevitably wrong just on pure probability grounds), all presenting their research as the plain inevitable truth. Only when you read a lot of different papers do you start to get a more full picture, that things are a lot fuzzier and less resolved than presented in the literature. This may be in part the source of my skepticism towards moral realism, it seems too easy a solution for a problem that has not been resolved since the days of Aristotle, Authors present part of the picture and think they have solved the whole thing, when there are vast fields beyond they haven’t even addressed because they aren’t even aware that they exist.

  57. As an aside, did you ever read Alvar Ellegard’s Jesus book? Not as convincing as Doherty, but a great insightful book nonetheless that fills in some blanks that Doherty misses.

    • I cite it, but it’s of limited use. He is not a biblical scholar. So to use his book, you basically have to be an expert yourself, and re-do all his research. He provides you with a handy road map for that. But that’s about the sum of his usefulness, IMO.

    • Which notably does not address my arguments or anything like them. Or indeed the arguments of any significant moral realist philosopher (e.g. Richard Boyd, Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, Peter Railton, Philippa Foot, or even Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, who is an expert in the neuroethics). She names them, but never interacts with what they actually say. None of them claim there are “independent evaluative truths” from evolved evaluators. So she is not even arguing with what they actually say. That’s pathetic.

      So now you are not just engaging in constant handwaving fallacies to avoid our actual arguments, you are citing other people engaging in handwaving fallacies who are ignorting our actual arguments. Nice.

      You and Street are acting just like creationists, who rant and rail about how evolution can’t be true, without ever once actually engaging with the arguments and evidence of actual experts in evolution, and misrepresenting what their arguments are, by attributing to them premises they never affirm.

      But to stick with what you are supposed to be doing here but are curiously, furiously, avoiding ever doing: my arguments.

      Street’s paper is useless to my argument. Because my argument explicitly disavows the existence of “independent evaluative truths” from evolved evaluators. You should know this. Because you claim to have read my chapter. So here is a test of your honesty and comprehension: quote the two sentences in my chapter that explicitly disavow the existence of “independent evaluative truths” from evolved evaluators (tip: they are not on the same page). You should have no difficulty. You should already have read both those sentences, so you should already know where they are.

      And once you have done that, explain to me why you still thought Street’s paper relevant to my argument, when her entire argument depends on my affirming a premise that in fact I explicitly deny?

  58. Here’s an expansion of the whole IS/OUGHT problem, that I’m sure you’ll ignore again, but I’ll say it anyway. You can derive an OUGHT from an IS for very simple cases, but sometimes these seemingly simple cases are actually a lot more complex. For example if you want to be in better health you OUGHT to eat better. But there are a lot of other possibilities. Perhaps you OUGHT to (a) eat more of foods a, b, and c, and less of foods c, d, and e, (b) or alternatively eat more of foods f, g, and h and less of foods i, j and k, (c) eat less of everything, (d) eat the same and exercise more, (e) just exercise, (f) use dietary supplements like vitamins, (g) use a host of different combinations of these as well as other things. There is no clear straitforward path from a particular IS to any number of OUGHTS that lead to the same thing.

    Also there are numerous IS’s in which no OUGHTS can lead to. If my IS is to become a professional baseball player, the OUGHTS will include countless hours of practice and instruction from good teachers, plus the OUGHT that I have to have hand eye coordination and other physical skills in the upper 95% of people. Then there are thousands of OUGHTS I could dream up, which could possibly be more moral than what I am presently doing, like permanently leaving the US and working the rest of my life building houses in Haiti. There are also OUGHTS that aren’t always there, even when I do all the right things to get there. There are thousands of college graduates who OUGHT to have jobs based on their education, so they can pay off the thousands of dollars of student loans incurred that they OUGHT not to have incurred if we had a more subsidized educational system. They did all the proper OUGHTS but didn’t find a clear IS at the end of the rainbow.

    The hypersimplistic IS OUGHT hypothetical imperative narrative, fails to point out that most OUGHTS are or should be ignored, and there is no clear methodology to determine which should or shouldn’t be ignored, some OUGHTS just aren’t possible to get an IS, and you can do all the right OUGHTS and not get to the IS because of factors beyond your control, and besides there are multiple OUGHT pathways to a given IS. We don’t live in a Tony Robbins fantasy world in which you just dream up some future ISs and do the right OUGHTs, and presto chango we achieve our moral goals, or whatever IS we aim to achieve.

    • More handwaving fallacies.

      This time even outright ignoring how I address exactly this issue in the chapter.

      Brilliant.

      You are like a talking calliope. Put in a nickel and thousand of irrelevant words get shouted at you.

  59. One of the biggest assumptions running through your whole paper is that “rationally and sufficiently informed people” will want and choose the same things. i.e. they will be identical twins. Will a rational and sufficiently informed libertarian necessarily want or choose the same thing as a rational and sufficient informed deontologist, or virtue ethicist, add political and ideological factors and the variability increases even more? I think not. In science, rationally and sufficiently informed people (i.e. they work with the same set of facts and theories and are competent enough to understand them fully) can have widely divergent views on just about anything.

    • Address. My. Arguments.

      I am starting to think you can’t. You can’t find any flaw in my syllogisms. They are valid. And you can’t dispute any of their premises. Not a one. Because thousands of words now and you have still not pointed to a single one you have any valid objection to. You have been conspicuously avoiding even talking about them. You just keep rambling on about other stuff.

      And now your rambles are actually showing complete ignorance of what I say in the chapter about the very things you are rambling on about.

      Stop.

      Address. My. Arguments.

      Or else concede my conclusions are proved, valid and sound.

  60. “Because my argument explicitly disavows the existence of “independent evaluative truths” from evolved evaluators. You should know this. Because you claim to have read my chapter.”

    Thanks you’re agreeing with me. There can be no objective ethics apart from evolutionary ethics. Had we evolved toward polygamy instead of monogamy then that would be moral instead, like I noted. Human traits like the propensity for xenophobia, preferences for local in groups, slavery and patriarchal sexism and other evolved biases that promoted reproductive success however nasty must all be moral by this form of objective ethics, since any independent evaluative truth cannot be distinct from evolved evaluators. This is one reason I cannot be a moral realist, it forces one to consider certain things to be moral, what most people would consider immoral. If evolved evaluators cannot form independent evaluative truths apart from their evolutionary history, your just stuck describing kin selection and reciprocal altruism in sophisticated ways including cultural selection, essentially you’re stuck just describing what people generally do as a result of our evolutionary history, hardly novel.

    “You and Street are acting just like creationists, who rant and rail about how evolution can’t be true, without ever once actually engaging with the arguments and evidence of actual experts in evolution, and misrepresenting what their arguments are, by attributing to them premises they never affirm.”

    Street does precisely the opposite, pointing how honestly accepting our common understanding of evolution, forces many arguments made by moral realists to be inconsistent. If anything she acts like the consistent evolutionist. If you’re honest you’ll admit that you are asserting that there are truths apart from out evolved nature such as in your paraphrase of your paper:

    “Likewise morality. If you want to maximize your personal life satisfaction in a social system, while minimizing your actuarial risk of failure, you have to behave a certain way. That is an objective fact of the world, same as the laws governing surgery or bridge building.”

    Evolution has nothing to say particularly about maximizing “personal life satisfaction” in Western democracies. So maximizing personal life satisfaction has to be an “independent evaluative truth,” as Street analyzes, which if realism is true must exist tangential to evolved realities based on reproductive success.

  61. I hereby grant officially the two following syllogistically divined truths:

    That there is a true moral system for very nearly all human beings.

    And

    That science can empirically discover the true moral system.

    But pray tell, may I ask,

    What is the true starting point behind the true moral system, is it the individual, or society, or something else?

    What counts as a true moral in the true moral system? Does only the liberal subset of moral categories count as true morality?

    What counts as a true evaluation method to find true morals in the true moral system?

    Are true morals what we recognize to be evolved morals or are they different all together?

    Are true morals closer to deontology, virtue ethics, utilitarianism, libertarianism or something else entirely?

    These true morals seem quite external to me, how do we properly internalize them so that I have sufficient motivating reason to obey them over all others?

    How do true morals resolve moral disagreements like abortion as well as moral dilemmas?

    And is Mitt Romney a moral person or not?

    The answer of course is 42. Stop acting like a creationist.

  62. And here’s another.

    How do we know precisely that Jesus has a 33.333333333% reasonable possibility of existing.
    How do we know that it isn’t actually 32.98509345% or 36.86854836%?

    Just save that for another day and another book.

    • We don’t know that. That’s the point. You evidently haven’t read either of my books. I conclude the probability cannot be higher than 33% and is unlikely to be lower than 1 in 12,000. Where the probability is between those we can’t say (I can make a case for the probability it is on the lower side is higher than the upper side, e.g. it’s not a bell curve, but that’s not essential to the point).

      The 33% is arbitrarily high, in order to maintain the widest possible margin of error. It has nothing to do with the margin being precise. I explain this explicitly in OHJ (and the method in PH).

      Learn how it works before criticizing it.

  63. The answer to life, the universe and everything else is apparently libertarianism. Mitt Romney is moral after all.

  64. “And you can’t dispute any of their premises. Not a one. Because thousands of words now and you have still not pointed to a single one you have any valid objection to.”

    False.

    Your long extended syllogisms can be reduced to one:

    Moral facts exist, therefore moral facts exist.

    Begging the question. Circular reasoning using arbitrary convoluted assumptions. Every objection I bring up is put in the hearsay category and ignored, when they are in fact all elements an empirically sound moral theory must address.

    Some of us can see through that.

    Also, outside pure mathematics, logical reasoning to ascertain truth has kinda been out of fashion since the days of Thomas Aquinas. Try publishing a long extended logical reasoning paper in a science journal and see where it will get you.

    Nowadays, we use hypothetico-deductive method, we formulate hypothesis and test them empirically, and if they are false we try to modify them slightly to see if they will still work or else throw them in the trash bucket and start over.

  65. Wow Wow Wow Wow Wow.

    You actually do spill the beans somewhere. In a debate with Mike Mckay you essentially call state your highest value as personal satisfaction and your method desire utilitarianism – use reason and information to achieve your personal goals, This is Randianism, Objectivism in ever way, this is Tony Robbins philosophy just as I expected. You could work for Tony Robbins, your philosophy is perfectly in line with almost everything he says. A person could watch your video presentation and his philosophy and come to the conclusion that it is virtually identical. Any independent person can watch your debate where your quite plain about your views and come to the same conclusion. This is why you cannot say Mitt Romney is not a moral person according to this philosophy. Because according to this philosophy he is not. He is perfectly moral according to the presentation you laid out in this debate. Your syllogisms are just a grand expression of your fundamentally egoistic philosophy. I was right all along just as I thought. I could spell it out in detail if you want, but this is the essential truth is in your own words in this debate. Wow. Wow, Wow. No wonder you wanted me to dig into all the obscurity of your convoluted logic, you just didn’t want me to know the plain truth about your Randian Tony Robbins philosophy.

  66. Your responses are inadequate as usual. I’ll take it up again another time in another semi-related post (morality etc.) sometime in the future. BTW, you’re not the only busy person. Until then….

    Cheers

    • That’s rich. My responses are inadequate!? You have flatly refused to address my actual arguments, explicitly and openly and repeatedly, without relent. That is quintessential inadequacy!

      You clearly cannot argue against my actual arguments, so you try bullshitting endlessly, even as I repeatedly ask you to address my actual arguments.

      It’s really laughable. You should be embarrassed.