Texas Freethought Convention, with political thoughts

I had a great time at the convention yesterday.  I was a bit of a lightweight, only putting about six hours into it and not sticking around for the keynote speech (Sorry, PZ!  I’m sure it was great!) or the pub crawl afterwards.

Picked up PZ Myers at the airport at 12:30 on Monday and got him to his hotel by 1.  After that I slept in and then Lynnea and I drifted to the capitol steps around 11, just missing a speech by the head of Camp Quest Texas.

There were some protesters there.  We got pictures!

Lynnea Glasser and protester at the Texas Freethought Convention


On arriving, we heard speeches by Kathleen Johnson, Jessica Ahlquist, Matt Dillahunty, PZ Myers, Sean Faircloth, and Richard Dawkins.  With all respect for those other speakers, sixteen year old Jessica Ahlquist stole the show.  Her story about standing up to bullies at her school, both among the staff and students, never gets old for me.  Especially after hearing about all the students who wrote to thank her for speaking for them when they were too afraid to speak for themselves.

Richard Dawkins’ speech was… a little strange to me.  Along with a lot of other speakers, Dawkins spoke rather urgently about the upcoming election.  He spoke in a lot of cutesy hypotheticals such as “Imagine we have one candidate who thinks X, but another candidate who thinks Y…”, but he was giving an incredibly unsubtle endorsement of Barack Obama.

Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that; the ACA has no official position but I personally am a Democrat.  However, Dawkins’ argument against Mitt Romney was frankly not that good.  Essentially, he said “Suppose one candidate believes that” and then proceeded to list all the ridiculous qualities of Mormonism.  The golden tablets, the racist history, the shady background of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, etc… if you’ve ever seen South Park or Book of Mormon then you probably can’t resist singing “dum dum dum dum dum” along with it.

So the argument was… Mitt Romney believes all this incredibly stupid stuff, therefore he’s an idiot with bad judgment, and that’s why you shouldn’t vote for him.  But what about Christianity?  Well, first of all, Dawkins (along with, I would assume, most Fox News viewers) thinks that Barack Obama is probably not really a Christian.  And second of all, even if he is, this is excusable because it’s not quite as silly to believe in Christianity.  See, that religion is… well, OLD.  Since the events behind the creation of Mormonism were so recent, it should be much easier for anyone to see through it.

Basically, I don’t buy this.  Mormons have tons of irrational, unsupported beliefs.  Christians have tons of irrational, unsupported beliefs.  A large part of the reason anyone accepts this stuff is cultural.  You grow up with something, people tell you that it’s right, you have enormous support groups encouraging you to stick to the path.  For  most religious people, I would say that the specifics of the belief are much less important than the show you put on to convince others that you believe it.

I do have a serious problem with fundamentalists — your Bachmanns, Santorums, and Huckabees — who explicitly state that their policies will be based on the more dangerous aspects of their religious convictions.  To some extent, Mitt Romney has claimed to share those convictions this cycle, getting behind policies that would restrict birth control, ban gay marriage, and so on.  But to the extent that he expresses those views, they are virtually indistinguishable from the hardcore Christian right element of the Republican party.  I’ve seen no reason to think that Romney might enact policies that would stem from the specific details of Mormonism that aren’t shared with similar religions.  I think his base would revolt if he tried to.

So, I disagree with Dawkins in that I don’t see any point in highlighting the nonsensical beliefs of any particular religion.  I would recommend that we leave it to the competitors for the One True Faith to hash out whether the disappearing golden plates are more or less ridiculous than the ancient reports of an empty tomb.  I think we should encourage rationality among all candidates everywhere we can.

In the afternoon, I went to the hotel convention room for a packed debate between Matt Dillahunty and Kristine Kruszelnicki on whether secularists should support abortion rights.

Abortion debate at the Texas Freethought Convention

I’m biased on this issue, and clearly so was the rest of the room.  To me it seemed like no contest.  I think I’ll save the description of the debate for a later post, and maybe Matt should be the one to write it.  But having heard the apparent best secular case for banning abortion, I’m still left thinking it’s largely emotionally driven, and not a good case.

I then heard Sean Faircloth give a very excellent pep talk about why atheists should be politically active, and how they can be good at it.  Learning how to approach lobbyists is very unlikely to be information I’ll use in the future, but it’s good to know that we have competent leaders who are doing it.  Sean painted an optimistic picture of atheists, saying that by 2020 he expects us to be a serious force in the election.

I got tired and left before getting to hear Darrel Ray speak, so I did my best to make up for it by buying his book, Sex & God, on the way out.  I’ve heard good things about it and look forward to the read.

Today Jen Matt and I will be doing a live two hour episode of The Atheist Experience with all the convention stragglers in attendance.  Matt and someone else may switch out after the first hour, I’m not sure yet.  Anyway, looking forward to more fun.

Update: PZ Myers has done the best summary of the debate. Go read it.


  1. says

    Man Russell, I think you seriously hit the nail right on the head with this —

    “For most religious people, I would say that the specifics of the belief are much less important than the show you put on to convince others that you believe it.”

    Having been steeped in Christianity from birth, I can honestly say that this statement was very, VERY true for me. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that I had even been doing it, but I have to say that I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in those days to make sure and say exactly the things that people expected to hear, the way that they wanted to hear it. I have little reason to doubt that this is exactly how everyone else around me also was behaving.

    Just wanted to comment on that, it’s something I’ll be pondering on for a while 🙂

  2. mazarin says


    What do these people think witches are? If I ever met a witch, someone who could actually do something otherwise assumed to be physically impossible, I’d see if I could team up with them and have a part in the fortunes that could be made off of the discoveries. And in any case I’d want them to go public with it, share the abilities with the world.

  3. davidhart says

    For what it’s worth, I kind of get where Dawkins is coming from here. The historical record we have for Joseph Smith is such that you would have to be a lunatic (or indoctrinated from childhood) to think that he was anything other than a blatant fraud, whereas the historical record we have for Jesus is so fuzzy that it’s still an active topic for debate whether he even existed (and therefore, so fuzzy that you can happily paste in any implausible story you like and be reasonably confident that no evidence is going to turn up to conclusively prove that that story came about as the result of fraud), and it is slightly easier to believe that implausible supernatural things happened in the mists of ancient history than to believe that implausible things happened on the say-so of an obvious con artist. I’m not sure there’s enough of a difference in it to justify preferring one presidential candidate over another, though.

  4. says

    That’s interesting. To me, the specific beliefs were all that mattered. I expected religion to provide true, accurate answers. I expected doctrine to reflect reality.
    Of course, that’s also why I dumped the whole thing eventually, when it became clear that the answers were not forthcoming.

    I was not raised religious, so maybe that makes a difference? I came to religion with an attitude of “I have to figure out what I’m going to believe”, rather than just having inherited a specific position.
    I wonder if people raised in a religion really think much about what they believe or simply assimilate it as “this is what we believe.”

  5. Marcelo says

    I thought that the protesters had very good and convincing points until I arrived to “witches”.

    And then I changed my mind 🙂

  6. says

    While it’s certainly dismaying that we live in a world where candidates for political office can become hugely popular, and often win, despite having the dumbest religious beliefs imaginable, in the end the reason to vote or not vote for them has to do with their policies, to what degree they’ll allow their religion to influence said policies, and their intentions to impose their beliefs on all the rest of us via those policies.

  7. says

    in the end the reason to vote or not vote for them has to do with their policies, to what degree they’ll allow their religion to influence said policies, and their intentions to impose their beliefs on all the rest of us via those policies.

    This. That’s why Obama’s faith doesn’t particularly bother me: I don’t worry that he might use it to determine his policies.

    Actually, I don’t think Romney’s particularly religious himself. He strikes me more as the money-grubbing sociopath type. However, that means he might pander to the religious nutbags as a way of staying in power, making him just as problematic as the zealots.

  8. jdog says

    Is there a video for the abortion debate up yet? I’d be interested to see what the secular pro-life position brings to the table.

  9. Shawn Smith says

    … in the end the reason to vote or not vote for them has to do with their policies,

    I’m not sure if you were being descriptive or proscriptive here, but if you were being descriptive, then I really don’t see it. In most cases I’ve seen, people will vote for members of their tribe first, and then use whatever rationalizations they need in order to feel good about their vote. Case in point, my father is a lifelong Democrat and a pretty severe bigot, bringing up “illegals” at every opportunity and using the word “nigger” to describe African-Americans. When Barack Obama was nominated, he was definitely having some major cognitive dissonance as to whether he wanted the Democrat to win. Another example I would present is David Heddle who occasionally comments over at Dispatches, who said he would vote for McCain-Palin because Ms. Palin was part of his tribe, even though he thought McCain was a very bad candidate. Also, my possibly flawed memory of Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things is that this idea is its primary premise.

  10. Patricia, OM says

    This sounds like the same speech Dawkins gave in Portland, Oregon at the FFRF convention last weekend. I didn’t like it one bit. Somebody needs to tell him he’s preaching to the choir.

  11. says

    I hope you’re not implying that Obama is a socialist, because if you are, you need to read up on what the word means.

  12. says

    Yes, I was being proscriptive. Naturally the reasons people do vote are frequently irrational, as are, most probably, the reasons behind most of what they do in life.

  13. Tomasz R. says

    About abortion debate:

    The argument about female body integrity should only be used by a person who is consistent about protecting bodily integrity of humans in all situations. That is a person who is against every other involuntary violations of bodily integrity inclutding things like mandatory vaccinations or military draft (in any circumstances!).

    If I remember correctly from some episodes of AXP Matt is an enthusiast of mandatory vaccinations (correct me if I’m wrong). I don’t know about his stance about a military draft, especially in conditions of war etc.

    Basically if you ever used argument about sacrificing someone’s freedom of deciding about his body in the name of “greater good” or whatever (like vaccine or draft fanatics do), then you cannot use the argument that there should be an absolute freedom for females to decide about their bodies. Otherwise you are either a hyporcite, or inconsciously have inconsistent morality system.

    Example of draft analogy – assume there’s some need for “greater good”, like fighting demographics crisis of either too few children overall, or having few high-IQ ones, or government seeing that some great genetical lineages are dying off because females bearing them refuse to have children (The second and third one in extreme case may even cause civilization to collapse).

    To circumvent the problem appropriate (eg. high-IQ, non-violent ones, or from endangered good genetic lineages) females are drafted into some form of an obligatory breeding program. Assume that technically everything is OK in this program – proper medical care is provided, fetuses are healthy (there is abortion provided for genetically unhealthy ones), breeding partners are either husbands or boyfriends, or for those who don’t have ones – well matched men. The drafted females are even paid for participation.

    My point is that if you don’t oppose such possibilities like this program, then you cannot argue from female bodily integrity. If you oppose such program, then your stance is only valid if you oppose all bodily integrity violations (vaccines, drafts, etc.). If you don’t know, or are undecided then perhaps you are not good choice in the discussion about the topic.

    If you are not fully coherent about opposing bodily integrity violations, then you cannot oppose ban on abortions in the following situations:

    1) There is a proven public need for particular genetic types of people in new generation.

    2) There are females who happen to bear fetuses of such genetic type.

    3) Everything else is good, there are no problems, eg:
    a) There are no medical problems involved with pregnancy, health etc.
    b) No violent crime was involved leading to prenancy.
    c) There are no financial problems involved (eg. rich people, or financing lost opportunities by the government).
    d) Birth won’t cause family issues (husband accepts child), loss of boyfriend etc.

    If you have ever argued for “public good” and against personal freedom – you have to not oppose a potential abortion ban in such cases.

    If you consistently argued for personal freedom – you can argue for abortion freedom in such cases.

  14. codemonkey says

    If I remember correctly from some episodes of AXP Matt is an enthusiast of mandatory vaccinations (correct me if I’m wrong). I don’t know about his stance about a military draft, especially in conditions of war etc.

    You can be for mandatory vaccinations, and you can be against picking strangers off the street for forced kidney donations.

    Example of draft analogy – assume there’s some need for “greater good”, like fighting demographics crisis of either too few children overall

    I believe/hope that I speak for a great many people everywhere when I say this: I do not care one iota – not one bit – about the continuation of the human species if it involves otherwise unnecessarily hurting a human being. You need to double check your priorities.

    or having few high-IQ ones,

    I fail to see how this is a greater good.

    or government seeing that some great genetical lineages are dying off

    I fail to see how this is a greater good.

    3) Everything else is good, there are no problems, eg:
    a) There are no medical problems involved with pregnancy, health etc.
    b) No violent crime was involved leading to prenancy.
    c) There are no financial problems involved (eg. rich people, or financing lost opportunities by the government).
    d) Birth won’t cause family issues (husband accepts child), loss of boyfriend etc.

    You ass. Being pregnant is not some invisible condition that does not inconvenience the woman in any way. It’s a severe impairment of her capabilities, a severe change. You don’t get to conscript women’s bodies for your eugenics fantasies.

  15. Tomasz R. says

    On strength of arguments:

    I believe/hope…
    I do not care …
    I fail to see…
    I fail to see…
    You ass.

    That’s not good.

    Considering consistency of values: If Matt argues FOR and derives his argument FROM freedom or right to decide of person’s own body, or non-violation of body integrity, or health freedom, then as a cosequence he should be against all the following: mandatory or forced vaccinations or medications, ban on abortion, military draft, obligatory high-risk excercises in schools or similar. If he is for things like mandatory vaccinations, then he is against the right of people to decide about their bodies, so he should not say so.

    He then could derive his opposition to abortion ban from public good like lowering overpopulation, combined with prenatal testing being a replacement mechanism for natural selection in eliminationg genetic dieseases from population etc.

    Generally the argument from freedom seem to be very weak in the case of abortions.

    Consider reproductive freedom. What would happen if everyone decides not to have children? Such entities like civilization, mankind etc. would end. Appeareance of such thread wouldn’t go unnoticed by the deciders, and reproductive freedom would end. It looks like something allowed conditionally, that is unless it causes big problems. Basically fertility freedom is depending on conservatives with their high reporoduction rates, so that left wingers doesn’t have to bother, freeriding on it, not doing their dues.

    Argument from health freedom is by itself a strong argument, but it cannot be used by enemies of health freedom (vaccinators etc.). Besides it’s not that a median pregnancy is a diesease, and as you can see in my previous argument I assumed no health problems – if they should appear then abortion should be an option.

    Argument from freedom of pursuing opportunities, doing career etc. – the least relevant to abortion debate, as first it can be ameliorated by the system being pregnancy and child-friendly, and if no a precautios anticonception does its job. This one is the most easily trumped by public good, or civilizaton good or mankind good type arguments (egoism vs. good of all).

  16. says

    as you can see in my previous argument I assumed no health problems

    You mean, you assume no pregnancy. It isn’t possible to be pregnant and not be exposed to health risks. Pregnancy is by definition a risky situation, even if everything goes according to plan.

  17. codemonkey says

    Again, false dichotomy. There can be other competing interests. I’m leaning towards troll right now. You can be for promoting vaccines, and you can be against forced pregnancies, and I don’t see the contradiction unless you have some incredibly naive simplistic moral world view where there are not conflicting moral interests. There is the interest of the individual for personal autonomy, and there is the interest of everyone else of not getting sick from the person not getting vaccinations.

    And I still don’t see why civilization ending from lack of population growth is a bad thing. Not seeing it.

    And what about the argument that “being pregnant is inconveniencing”? That’s good enough for me.

  18. Tomasz R. says

    I see you have a problem with recognizing between promoting and forcing vaccines, and how it is related to freedom.

    Let me explain it to you:

    Forcing vaccines – a police comes to you, drags you to the hospita, where a doctor injects you with a vaccine against your will.

    Mandating vaccines – a broad term that may include forcing vaccines, or it may be just about actions like when you refuse to get a vaccine you pay a fine.

    Promoting vaccines – typically advertising that vaccines are great, and people benefit from deciding to get them voluntarily. Sometimes unfortunately it includes promoting forced vaccinantions or mandatory vaccinations.

    Basically if you are for forced or mandatory vaccinations (promoting them, advocating them or just agreeing with such policy), then you are not on a side of freedom, and as such you are a hyporcite if you argue for abortion with arguments derived from freedom. And nobody should trust hypocrites. Every experienced debater would destroy his opponent if such kind of hypocrisy appeared. It’s a case of “special pleading” – telling that abortion is somewhat special case in which freedom should be granted, while in other cases, like vaccines it should not.

    You can promoting VOLUNTARY vaccinations (or voluntarily joining military etc.) and still be on a side of freedom. If so then you are authorized to honestly debate for abortion righst deriving your arguments from freedom.

    If you are for forced or mandatory vaccinations or draft due to “public good” or similar, that is if you are public good guy rather than personal freedom guy, then you can still honestly argue for allowing abortions, but with arguments derived from public good, not arguments derived from freedom. Arguments from public good can include things like preventing spread of genetic dieseases (natural selection replacement), or support in fighting overpopulation.

    Notice that in all such sources of arguments there are valid cases for the pro-fetus side.

    In case of deriving from freedom it may be that the rights and freedoms we enjoy are a result of general tendency of overprovisioning rights and freedoms to everyone. So that we have more rights than we deserve. In such case granting life rights to fetuses might be a necessary side effect for continuing the overprovisioning of rights to grown ups. Eg. if you convince deciders there should be less rights to fetuses, then they will stop the general tendency of granting many rights and most will suffer as a result.

    In case of arguing for public good there are valid cases where continuing pregnancy is great for public good, and thus abortion should be no option, except for special cases of medical necessity etc. In fact public good arguments can even be used for advocating mandatory, but not forced, procreation in cases of demographics problems.

    Consider for example a german land (state):


    “A study done in the western German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen by the HDZ revealed that childlessness was especially widespread among scientists. It showed that 78% of the female scientists and 71% of the male scientists working in that State were childless.”

    So if a female scientist and a male scientist somehow produce pregnancy, there are no health issues etc. there can be shown a compelling public interest for disallowing it’s termination (unless of health/violence issues involved), due to the need for talented people in new generations. In this example even ligth mandatory (not forced) fertility could be promoted, eg. only those who produced offspring could get a tenure. Rights wouldn’t be an issue, as there’s a general consensus, that some rights can be revoked in crisis situations – and what’s happening is a crisis situation.

  19. Tomasz R. says

    OK – there’s a third option – arguing from balancing public good with individual freedoms. In such case a debater should show an equation that allows us to balance one with another. Such equation would be a double edged sword, as the opposing side would definitely find examples that are solutions to that equation, but are on their side.

  20. Tomasz R. says

    Pregnancy risk have nothing to do about deriving an argument from freedom. Freedom means you can do actin independant of the level of risk. Besides risks are highly individualized, so basing your argument on them won’t lead to a general conclusion, but perhaps only to some conclusion for high-risk groups.

    Risk is also not that important when arguing from public good, as public good guys claim that their thing requires individual sacrifices (like taking risks). And risk of pregnancy in modern world is not that high as to cause huge destruction of public good.

    Risk is relevant when arguing from balancing various conflicts. There you try to construct equations that tell you how many X can you exchange for Y (eg. freedom for security, privacy for better services or whatever). In such cases risk is not an eliminator of your opponents arguments, it just a factor, that increases the bar where your opponents proposed solutions can be applied. In case of abortion risk would then only mean that more women who suffer from some ailments would be allowed to get the abortion, but would have no power to eliminate a possible ban for abortions for women who are healthy and the individual (measured by a doctor) expected risk for and from their pregnancies is low.

    So the existance of risk just doesn’t support the argument for absolute freedom of abortions, that Matt was arguing for. But it is a good argument against absolute ban on abortions.

  21. says

    I wasn’t really making an argument there (I’m still thinking this over), I was simply pointing out that you can’t assume no health problems with a pregnancy.
    A pregnancy is a health risk. Period.

  22. says

    “Basically if you are for forced or mandatory vaccinations (promoting them, advocating them or just agreeing with such policy), then you are not on a side of freedom”

    I don’t see how you’re making this leap, Tomasz. According to your definition of “mandatory vaccinations”:

    “Mandating vaccines – a broad term that may include forcing vaccines, or it may be just about actions like when you refuse to get a vaccine you pay a fine.”

    You yourself admitted that this is a broad term which may include a simple fine. You then go on to argue that agreeing with such a mandate disqualifies you from being on the side of freedom. What you are describing, though, is very common and basic law – i.e., you must pay a fine for refusing to submit to vehicle speed laws. I can understand that yes, literally, speeding laws do limit certain “freedoms”, however we the public have agreed to these things because it promotes the well-being of every person.

    According to your argument, I would have to assume that the only way that you would describe me as being on the side of freedom is if I were an anarchist.

    Just wanted to weigh in on that, make of it what you will 🙂

  23. Tomasz R. says

    A minimalist ban on abortion may in fact include a simple fine for performing such procedure. Such ban would most likely be classified by pro-choice crowd as a violation of the right of women for deciding about their bodies.

    To be on the side of freedom you don’t have to be an anarchist (anti-government). Quite opposite you may recognize the role of the government as a grantor of freedoms. In such case you would support a government when it gives freedom to decide about vaccinations, and oppose a government when it decides to mandate or force vaccinations or perform military drafts.

    What is interesting here is that people have inconsistent, chimeric sources of values. Think about Atheism+ – people there derive some of their decisions from evidence-based scepticism, while getting some other from left-wing dogmas of diversity etc. The same people can say about others that if someone is a scientist and a believer then he’s doing something wrong, while not seeing a big problem with themselves.

  24. John Kruger says

    Comparing a mandatory pregnancy to mandatory vaccinations is as terrible an analogy as I have heard in a long time. The sacrifice and responsibility involved in carrying a pregnancy to term is nowhere close to the momentary pain of an injection and the remote risk of side effects. Likewise, the risk to society at large for failure to vaccinate is much greater than the risk to society from someone not having any children. The kind of public good argument you are raising would also support forcible blood and organ donation, and even mandatory reproduction by males as well. Do you think that the state should be able to order you to father and raise a child against your will? The level of sacrifice and potential harm to society are important distinctions that make the vaccination/pregnancy analogy completely invalid.

    Perhaps your doomsday scenario of nobody wanting children anymore and the species dying out could justify government interference, but that is not the world we live in. If anything, there are far too many people on this planet. Could the state then issue mandatory abortion orders in an overpopulation scenario by the same logic? You may notice that draft is only issued in desperate times of war, and sparingly even then. Your fantasy situation does nothing to inform us on how things are should be right now.

    There is no reason to take your hypothetical situation seriously. Imagining a purely hypothetical problem is not enough to justify legislating against it. What if everybody decided to stop eating food!? Everyone could die! We better make failure to eat enough illegal; before it’s too late!

    Being in favor of personal freedom does not mean you have to follow it off a cliff. People do not have the freedom to pay no taxes. People do not have the freedom to harm other people at will. A just society balances rights, freedoms, and obligations for the benefit and autonomy of all. Pregnancy is a serious enough condition that it should never be mandated or forbidden by a government policy. It would be an unacceptable level of tyranny otherwise.

  25. codemonkey says

    Basically if you are for forced or mandatory vaccinations (promoting them, advocating them or just agreeing with such policy), then you are not on a side of freedom, and as such you are a hyporcite if you argue for abortion with arguments derived from freedom.

    False dichotomies. Also uses dichotomy of positive vs negative liberties indicative of libertarian thought, and also uses moral absolutes indicative of libertarian thought, and libertarian policy is evil. Hopefully you’ll grow out it. Otherwise, I have nothing new to say. See my previous replies.

  26. codemonkey says

    Figures, you double posted, and now I have to.

    OK – there’s a third option – arguing from balancing public good with individual freedoms. In such case a debater should show an equation that allows us to balance one with another. Such equation would be a double edged sword, as the opposing side would definitely find examples that are solutions to that equation, but are on their side.

    Pretty bold claim. Let’s try it out.

    The government should incentivize the taking of certain vaccines because the harm to the individual from the imposition of taxes and vaccines is minimal compared to the benefit to the individual if most people get vaccinated. Miniscule chance of side effects, an hour of your time, and a pin prick, in exchange for never having to worry about polio. Seems like a good exchange to me.

    The government should not outlaw (most) abortions because 1- early term fetuses do not have neurons, let alone brains, and thus no minds, and thus no moral value in my moral calculus, and 2- even if it did have a mind (keep in mind most abortions are early term), to outlaw abortion would be to involuntarily conscript a body to take care of a stranger and that usually violates our sense of right and wrong. In the case of early term abortions, we’re causing harm with absolutely no gain whatsoever. In the hypothetical (?) case of later term abortions with fetuses with minds, we’re upholding the right that a stranger does not get to forcibly impose on another human’s body for months at a time causing severe distress. (My views are slightly more nuanced, but this is good enough for now.)

  27. Tomasz R. says

    In your latest elaboration you have proven that you are not on the side of individual freedom. Instead you promote the idea that it’s the GOVERNMENT that should be making decisions about the body of a person, but with the disclaimer that these decisions should be compatible with such persons interests.

    Such thinking is totally incompatible with freedom of abortion in many cases. First of all for a particular women a government may calculate a prediction (based on previously proven equations, vaildated on multiple other real-world cases) that she would be better off continuing pregnancy and having this child, rather than aborting it. Even though she doesn’t realize this yet, and wants abortion. So if we derived decisions from the point of view of government having decision power over individual in such specific case a government should ban abortion of this particular pregnancy for this particular woman for her own good.

    And perhaps even for the good of the society. After all a prticular fetus might have a high predicted value for the society, stemming from his great genetics (measured before making the decison). The positive societal effect of having an additional person of great potential in the world might easily outweight the sociletal effects few months of incovnenience of a women. On an individual level a government might financially for invonviniences by paying this women 1 mln $ (and perhaps even a fater paying additional 1 mln $). If so then even on the individual level the benefits for the woman is greater than the disadvantages. So if you give decision power to the government (stemming from your example with vaccines) then we have an example where a woman should be mandated to continue pregnancy and give a birth to the child.

    On a side note – you seem to be unterappreciating the negatie effects of mandatory vaccines, to make your point look better than it really is.

  28. Tomasz R. says

    In my posts I’ve indicated that a debater may derive his conclusions from various base arguments – freedom, public good, balancing conflicting interests etc. And that this may lead to incompatible results between conclusions from different premises.

    In case of your examples, if you decide based on public good, then mandatory (but not physically forced!) blood donations, mandatory (but not physically forced) reproduction, and legislative limits on over/undereating are valid concepts. Stealing kidneys isn’t!

    If you derive your conclusions from the premises of freedom – these are not what could be allowed.

    What I suggested you shouldn’t do is to jump from different initial premises depending on topic of conversation. Eg. first, when debating with a theist about religion convincing him that it’s crucial to base your views on evidence, proofs, science etc. Then when the topic goes to medicine saying you are for socialized medicine because Barrack Obamam said so, and his the authority, then when the topic goes to choosing products telling your conversation partner that it’s best to base decisions not on evidence (specifications, reviews etc.) but on gut feelings.

    This is exactly where analogy between who decides about vaccines (and draft) and who decides about pregnancy fits in. It’s a test for consistency of your mechanism of thinking and making decisions – is it good enough to be trusted by other people.

    So let’s start with the vaccine case, to check what is your way of thinking. According to you a government can decide about what to do to human bodies if there’s no sacrifice, responsibility or serious risk involved or if the risk of not doing something is high. I don’t think that with such approach you are authorized to preach freedom.

    So for example government should be able to mandate wearing something (a hat or a cap) on your head during winter to prevent dieseases, forbid tatoos, ban junk food and sodas, mandate excersising that is good for you and forbid one that is dangerous, mandate minimal standards of sleep etc.

  29. nigelhornbean says

    I’m seven out of ten on that warning sign but, do I get extra credit for being an habitual offender?

  30. codemonkey says

    If this helps any, I’m a classical liberal, in the actual sense, such as defined by my hero John Stuart Mill. Let me copy-paste his thesis paragraph of the “Harm Principle”, from his treatise “On Liberty”, as it is the most important premise in my moral framework. I apologize for the length, but I think it is important.

    The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are war-ranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

    You must understand that Mill is not a libertarian, and this does specifically allow compelling people by force to perform duties to improve the lives of others. See: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/John_Stuart_Mill and see: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/mill/liberty.pdf (or just do a simple google search as it’s long been out of copyright). He, and I, specifically believe that you can use force to prevent harm, but the standards for using force to compel acts to increase the well being of others has a higher standard. That is, we value personal autonomy as a value unto itself, but not an absolute value. Ex: You can’t kill one unrelated innocent person for his organs to save a measly 10 others, but you can kill 10 (or more) in self defense to save 1.

    Now, to your arguments.

    You argue a hypothetical situation where we could predict that the woman would be better off not aborting. That’s nice. I direct you to re-read the “Harm Principle”, as my response would be to just copy-paste that here.

    You argue a hypothetical situation where the baby is predicted to have a supremely great positive influence in the future on other people. First, your hypothetical is just that, hypothetical. This bears no relation to reality. We have no way of knowing if the baby will be the next Norman Borlaug or the next Hitler. So, barring the introduction of magic, this is an asinine hypothetical that has no bearing on reality.

    If we weaken this argue to maybe it’ll be the next Norman Borlaug, then you have no argument. It might also be the next Hitler. It might just be regular guy. However, we do know the actual effects on the woman, which are real, and are happening, and will happen. The balancing act here is easy. Nothing on one side, and real demonstrable harm from the imposition of outside force on the other.

    On a side note – you seem to be unterappreciating the negatie effects of mandatory vaccines, to make your point look better than it really is.

    Like what? An hour, a pinprick, and a supremely small chance of side effects, and on the other side eradicating polio!? This is a no brainer.

  31. jdog says

    As I’ve discovered in the past, it’s not really worth your time to attempt to explain things to Tomasz. If you haven’t already worked it out, he’s an anti-vaxxer and objectivist, neither of which are particularly rational positions if your values include giving a shit about your fellow human beings.

  32. says

    @Tomasz R.

    I wonder, how do you feel about drunk driving laws? Do you consider that an issue of freedom vs. public good also?

    Why is vaccination a freedom vs. public good thing anyway? Couldn’t it just as well be phrased as a freedom vs. freedom situation?
    I.e. the freedom to decide whether you want to get vaccinated vs. the freedom to decide whether you get infected with a dangerous disease.

    Indeed, if a person was known to be infected with a highly contagious disease with a 100% mortality rate, do we have the right to quarantine him or would that infringe upon his freedom?

  33. John Kruger says

    Freedom is not a binary true/false belief. If you are going to “preach freedom”, do you necessarily support anarchy with no government limitations at all? I doubt it.

    Some freedoms infringe on the freedoms of others, and some laws increase the freedom of everyone. I do not have the freedom to drive through red lights, yet on my commute home it takes considerably more time if a traffic light is disabled (or worse still if accidents occur due to traffic laws not being observed). By the same token, my freedom is also considerably infringed upon if people are running around spreading infectious diseases that could be vaccinated against. In a time of invasion my freedoms are also limited if nobody organizes to fight back against the invaders and I am conquered.

    The greatest freedom exists in a careful balance between societal obligation and personal choice. Choosing only one or the other is ludicrous. There is about as much freedom in total anarchy as there is in a fascist regime. If you are going to insist on only one value and hold up extremes to decry it you are only demolishing a straw man position held by no one. Do more than restate your old arguments if you want this conversation to continue.

  34. Tomasz R. says

    Drunk driving is another example that can be derived by from multiple premises.

    One would be that a government set the standards for the use of the roads. Using of the roads is optional, and a driver can be a third party, so there’s hardly any argument about someone not having an option to avoid driving. So if alcohol leven in blood was a good measure of As I understand in such case a controversy would be that having alcohol in your blood is not a measure of driving capacity, and as such should not be a part of the standars eg. a person can have alcohol in his blood, but due to capacity reserves still be a better driver than someone with no alcohol but lower base driving skills, worse eyesight etc. who is still not punished for driving. Some information indicates that a lack of sleep may be as bad as a certiain illegal alcohol level, while not being illegal. I’m not qualified to validate how valid is a blood alcohol level as a measure of driving abilities compared to other factors, so I can’t answer if (in “setting standards” interpetation) drunk driving laws are fully correct.

    But the topic is not quite analoguous to abortion or vaccines, for example there’s no body integrity violation by saying someone he shouldn’t drive. In case of forced vaccines someone’s body is violated just because he exists.

    If we take “settings standards” interpretation in to consideration on the topic of resistance to dieseases or spreading dieseases then one can clearly see that there are people who are resistant enough to dieseases naturally, there are people who can be there with some lifestyle improvements (taking vitamins C and D, excercising etc.), there are average people and there are hopless people who have low immunity no matter what. So setting standards would mean different thing to different group – in case of the best nothing would be required. In case of the people with the worst immunity – nothing would help, and such people should be dissalowed to be in public places in order not to be potential spreaders of the dieseases or in order not to get infected themselves. In case of average people setting standards would be outcome-based: no specific action would be mandated, but achieving certain level of resistance to dieseases would be required by any mean a person chooses (which include, but not require vaccines, and doesn’t include those vaccines that are inefficient).

    Considering public good vs. freedoms. There’s always a problem with debating public good vs. freedoms. Who decides what is public good? Typically a government (legislative + executive + agencies). Who decides what should be the appropriate conversion factor of loss of freedom to gain in public good and vice versa – a govnermnent again. Who decides what are the appropriate safety levels, risks for actions mandated in the name of public good – a government. Who checks if such levels are fullfilled – a government. Is government always competent – no. Is government fully not-corrupted – no. Does government always acts in good intentions – no. Is government always acting on evidence rather than ideology – no. Public good justification (or government-knows-best justification) was used by evil govnermnets to do evil things. But there’s also a threat of governent mandates leading to catastrophic result just because of mistakes, incompetence, corruption etc. Same with other establishments – medical boards, boards of large corporations etc.

    So the argument against mandatory actions is not only that “freedom is great”, but also “you can’t trust the establishment and authorities”.

    In case of the obligatory vaccinations example danger may be that an incompetent pharmaceutical company produces a broken product with dangerous effects, a corrupt government agency allows its use, while overzelous deciders indoctrinated into the ideology of vaccines not having any bad effect and forcing them being a virtue would force this harmful product on the entire population.

    The other case would be that inefficient vaccines (mandated due to adishonesty of the producer and corruption or incompetence of the government) create false sense of security against a particular diesease and thus help the diesease to spreads wildly.

    When it comes to quarantienes these are efficient means to fight epidemics, again – if the government is competent.

  35. Tomasz R. says

    “insist on only one value and hold up extremes to decry it you are only demolishing a straw man position held by no one” – this is exactly what Matt did during the debate. Deriving his conclusins from some fundamentalist notion of absolute freedom, and disregarding other possbile bases, like balancing interests of all parties involved or pubic good. What I’m doing here is trying to determine what would be conclusions about abortions if we try to derive such conclusions from those other base values.

    Considering blame for infections – it’s well known that are the agents of infections. These are not people, but viruses, bacteria, fungi, worms etc. People, animals but also dead, inanimate objects can be carriers of the diesease. Why do you single out people for blaming – do you hate people?

    Among people – why single out people without vaccinantions, rather than eg. low-immunity people? Actually it’s the people during vaccine shredding who could be blamed for consciously endangering people around.You may be indocrtinated against people who don’t use vaccines. So much that you don’t see the flaws in what you have written. Do you for example think that people should get vaccines for all known dieseases (=thousands) in order to assure your feeling of freedom or safety?

    And how do you arrive from there being a random danger to violation of freedom. Eg. you dont usually say “my freedom of movement is also considerably infringed upon if bears are running around in the open space or a forest”. It’s not interpreted this way (in fact you can go out and run with the bears). Heavy traffic on the streets is not interpreted as decreasing your freedom compared to empty streets despite presenting a much bigger danger to your life.

  36. says

    Dude, you need to work on being a bit more concise. I’ll try to chew through this, but I swear the first read of your post made me feel like my will to live was just draining away. I had similar problems with your previous postings, which is part of what makes me hesitate to fully engage with this discussion. I can see it’s going to be a lot of work and I’m just not sure I want to bother with it.

    I understand the desire to explain your position and be precise and exhaustive, but it’s incredibly difficult to follow your train of thought in this. I would recommend an increased focus on brevity and structure.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t even know if you actually managed to answer my questions or not. You might have, but I’ll have to read it through again to be sure.

    Naturally, feel free to think I’m an idiot who doesn’t get it. This is just my impression. Take it or leave it.

  37. John Kruger says

    Matt did not derive his conclusions solely from a notion of absolute freedom. One of the first statements he made was “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose”. You are deliberately using extreme examples to attack basic concepts in a shamelessly one sided way. Are you an anarchist or a fascist? Must you choose one or are nuanced positions actually possible? It is perfectly reasonable to consider a value like personal freedom on a case by case basis to balance it against other values.

    Are you really equating people and objects in terms of accountability and blame? People can be responsible for their actions, objects cannot. Low immunity people have no choice. People can choose not to have vaccinations. In fact, if we care about the low immunity people we should indeed get vaccinations. Yes, as many people as possible should be immunized against as many life threatening or debilitating diseases, that they are likely to be exposed to, as is reasonable. Myself included. Reckless actions that endanger other people should not be tolerated. If someone is firing off a gun in the air in a crowded area, the gun is not blamed and it is not because we “hate people”.

    Last you equate bears and people in terms of accountability. Get serious. I cannot expect a bear to obey the laws of the land, but I can and do expect that from a human. My comparison of traffic had nothing to do with “empty streets”; it was to show that a fairly implemented reduction in choice (or freedom) can be beneficial to all concerned and increase the freedom people have to get around. Demanding empty streets for myself would be hypocritical. Expecting everyone to obey the same rules I obey is not. Having to worry about maniac driving and being killed every time I hit the streets is not freedom at all, fair obedience to a uniform system is clearly preferable.

  38. Tomasz R. says

    Considering diesease part: I was arguing for judging by the effect, you are arguing for judging by the circumstances or how hard someone tries to improve. If we judge by effect then an effective resistance to the diesease or an effective amount of spread viruses is what counts. People who have good organisms may easily get better scores while slacking, not going to doctor etc vs. someone with weak organism who tries as hard as possible to improve the score.

    It’s the same in other aspects of life, for example people who are naturally big, muscular, strong-boned may score decently at lifting weights even if not excercising much, while people who are naturally tiny, thin, without proper frame may get medicore scores even if excercising hard. But its the measured lifted weight that counts, not how hard someone works out.


    On blaming people: There’s a certain cognitive bias in people, which name I don’t remember, which is about overatribbuting agency to people, while underattributing agency of non-humans (devices, systems, procedures, nature, random causes etc.) In case of some failure it means that some people selected who were somewhat connected to working on a failed project and the blame will be assigned to them. But it is also used by some cunning people for their own benefit. Like a worker who enters some data into the computer, clicks on “Create a report” button, prints it, and then goes around bragging “I have made this great report” – and really low percent of people ( including me) hearing this protest, saying it’s the computer software that is the actual creator of the report.

    In your case the real agents the agents of diesease are viruses, bacteria, fungi, worms etc., but you apply this bias to the situation and somehow blame people.

    There may be argument that some don’t try hard enough to improve their immunity, or even decrease it by eating junk food or whatever – but if it was a crime then only few percent of us wouldn’t be in prison.


    Going back to abortion rights: You wrote “It is perfectly reasonable to consider a value like personal freedom on a case by case basis to balance it against other values” and about ” careful balance between societal obligation and personal choice”. This leads to conclusions that don’t match what Matt advocated in the debate. He advocated for abortion at will. From your premises you can only derive abortion rights with certain limits.


    About holding inconsistent base values: It’s frequent that people behave in an inconsistent ways or hold inconsistent values. Doctors who smoke, scientists who operate on evidence at work and on beliefs on Sunday, policewomen who are attracted to criminals.

    The example of Matt – he is able to advice callers to take care of their health, and then show up on non-prophets with a pipe and aspartame-landen drink, or on AXP eating junk food and informing that he has diabetes.

    Arguing from different base values on different topics is one of the examples of such incosistency. Apparently on the topic of abortion we are supposed to derive our conlcusions from the values of freedom of decision about your own body, while on the topic of vaccines we are supposed to disregard it, and derive our conclusions based on public health.

    It’s not only atheist who have consistency problems. An extreme right winger can make an argument against abortion deriving it from the inalienable right to live, while during debate about guns argue that he should have a right to use a deadly force against any person who just stepped into his private land.

    You seem to be consistent in promoting balancing various factors as a way to derive conclusions. But you haven’t provided a conversion functions and constants that would allow us to know what is the exchange rate of one value to the other.

  39. John Kruger says

    I get the feeling we are talking past each other now, so I will post this and give you the last word.

    I really do not understand how you can blame an agent with no choice or ability to understand society at large and let the person off the hook. A virus will infect whatever it can. If we understand that, we are to be held responsible for actions that help or hinder that process. If the military uses biological weapons, are the generals not responsible for the deaths because the virus does the killing? I think not. If you fail to vaccinate and endanger children too young to be inoculated, you are responsible for endangering them, not the virus.

    I cannot, in good conscience, demand anyone complete a pregnancy against their will, regardless of how close they are to giving birth. I am too far removed from a person’s life to make any reasonable judgments about an issue as complex as being pregnant or not, the life situations of people are far too diverse to make a unilateral decision for someone else. In particular, a unilateral decision as powerful as a legal mandate is completely unacceptable. I do not see how this is functionally different from abortion at will, or how this falls outside a balance between societal obligation and personal freedom.

    Vaccination and pregnancy are very different. It is perfectly reasonable to consider the invasiveness and the effect on society at large to come to different conclusions, even if personal freedom is a value that you hold. One value need not be held over all others at all costs, and I have no reason to think that Matt wants to derive abortion rights solely from personal freedom as a right superseding all others in all cases. One need not oppose vaccinations and abortion if one wants to value personal freedom, any more than one need simultaneously advocate a 10% and 100% tax rate if one thinks taxes are necessary.

    At no time did I imply that cognitive dissonance is impossible or does not exist. I just made a case that Matt was not engaged in it.

  40. Tomasz R. says

    “You argue a hypothetical situation” – no, absolutely no. Every fetus has an unique (except for same-egg twins or clones) genetic code. So there’s not only POTENTIAL value in a fetus. There’s actually DETERMINISTIC value in a fetus in form of what it already has – like it’s own genetic makeup. This makeup can be either high value – lots of genes for intelligence, longevity, resistance to dieseases and cancer, very few for violence, genetic dieseases. Or it can be of low positive, or even negative value – lots of genes for violence, psychopathy, lots of genetic dieseases. Or the genes can be valuable because of rarity – eg. a fetus can be a last Mohican or whatever other rare tribal.

    So if we derive our thinking from balancing various goods, then the existing, deterministic high value of the fetus counted by it’s genetic material might turn out to be HIGHER than value counted form freedom for the pregnant woman bearing it leading to the mandate to complete THIS PARTICULAR pregnancy. On the other hand a very negative value of the featus as contributed by its genetic material may even lead to the mandate abortion of THAT PARTICULAR fetus.

    Besides potential value is also a real value – count it as Probability * Result. Eg. if a fetus has 1% probability of inheriting a billion dollars within next 2 years then it’s 10 million dolars 🙂


    “First, your hypothetical is just that, hypothetical. This bears no relation to reality”. Are you against thinking? A process of thinking ivnovles prototyping the world by hypothesising – especially constructing the models that are compatible with rules governing reality, which means they may happen in the future. You may construct them for different purposes – as goals to set yourself, as a way of identifying future threats (security/defense won’t work without hypothesising!), identifying opportunities etc. You cannot efficienty operate just on past cases in a modern world – a world of change. Reality is not just past, future is reality too.

    It’s important when considering abortion freedom or ban to go over all possible situations (even ones that haven’t yet happened) that may happen with such laws operating and how the proposed legislation affects it. For example abortion ban advocates should answer what should the legislation do if a woman is stealthly in-vitro fertilized when she is sleeping or unconscious (this may even lead to virgin birth). No rape exception applies here, as no sex was involved. This was a stealth operation so who has the burden of investigation and proof what happened?


    Considering your underappreciacion of harmful effects of mandatory vaccines – everything you have written confirms it. But it was not my point – the point was about the body integrity violation, and double standards some people use when being for freedom in cases of mandatory pregnancy, then turning against freedom in case of mandatory vaccines.


    About various harm principles: This is wrong. We are allowed or even encouraged (!) to destroy stuff in the name of our egoistic interests. Eg. you are expected to finish off you competition, thus creating a desolte market from a thriving one. We are encouraged to cut forest, destroy wipe out entire ecosystem on pieces of land (agricutlure) to earn money in excess what we need for ourselves.

    As for other people you are allowed to do harm to them, eg spread true information about their weaknesses via gossips, use their bad situation to get them into extaorbitant interest rates, promote and sell them harmful products (eg. junk food), pollute to certain limited extent etc.

  41. codemonkey says

    Moral “Fact”: Even if the mother is wrong, even if her life would be better for her if she had the kid, you do not get to make that decision for her.

    Fact: No one can tell if someone’s fetus will grow up into the next Hitler or Norman Borlaug. No one can tell if the fetus will be beneficial or harmful to future society.
    Fact: Any policy that is predicated on the future value to society of the fetus is thus bunk.

    Finally, if you think it is moral that we have a culture where we teach our children to “crush” their competition, and that it is moral to “crush” your competition, then I think you need to take some time and reflect on if you really think this.

  42. Tomasz R. says

    So the way you say we should derive concusions in important issues is based on rule as follow:

    “It is perfectly reasonable to consider the invasiveness and the effect on society at large to come to different conclusions, even if personal freedom is a value that you hold. One value need not be held over all others at all costs,”

    If we apply this rule to various situations we can derive from it:

    1) Mandatory reproduction for particular important group of people in cases where there is a demographics crisis of underpopulation of such particular important group of people. Example of problem – scientists in some German lands:


    “A study done in the western German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen by the HDZ revealed that childlessness was especially widespread among scientists. It showed that 78% of the female scientists and 71% of the male scientists working in that State were childless.”

    Note that I’m not saying it would be a physically forced reproduction, more like a mandate by various incentives, like not getting access to some jobs, or paying higher taxes for those who are below the limit.

    2) Mandatory abortions and anticonception where there is a significant overpopulation crisis. Something similar to what’s done in China.

    3) Mandatory genetic screening and aborting genetically unhealthy fetuses.

    We have a record number of mutations in current human population, due to a record size of the population itself plus some extra from pollution. Many of them are not eliminated via natural selection due to stopping of natural selection via civilization (including welfare and medicine). Since entropy is growing, what we basically would end up would be a growing number of bad mutations spread over the entire population. A way to protect this is only through actively fighting the spread of bad genes.

    It’s also rationally beneficial for the women not to have a child with genetic dieseases, even if she instinctively wants it.

    4) Mandatory genetic screening and obligatory completing of pregnancy for unusually valuable fetuses (good genetic code).

    Our civilization is is critically dependant on the availability of talented people, as well as it’s in the interest of a mother and father to have a talented child.

    So cases like 3 and 4 are not even the conflict of interests, as overall all sides are going to be better if a proposed action is done. It’s still about freedom – can these women make bad decisions? If we should derive conclusions from freedom not being held above other values, then the proposed solutions are valid for these situations.

    Notice also that for a conservative people all this whining how scary, threatning and difficult a pregnancy is a total nonsense, an artificially invented problem. They tend to have lots of children and haven’t yet noticed all those postulated scarry stuff…

    Cases 1 and 2 are different in the sense of being crisis situations. Typically in crisis situations some freedoms are allowed to be suspended.

    Basically there’s no way to derive an universal right to abortion, reproduction etc. if you DON’T hold up freedom above anything else. That’s why Matt was so high on freedom, as he would have lost the case for universal abortion right otherwise.


    On holding different standards to different situations. People are hyporcrites, even if they are pretending to be objective, they are

    Consider left wingers. They claim to be pro-science, but when someone dares to measure IQ levels of black population and publish it they go into extremaly emotional mode and attack him personally – not via discussion, but by trying to destroy him, and deny the research via propaganda.


    Or those people who say they support choice, but when it comes to vaccines they go into extreme fundamentalist mode and try to deny any other option than the one they support.


    With all the fundamentalism symptoms – like denial of negative effect of vaccines, classifying everyone who doesn’t agree even by one vaccine or with the mandate itself (political aspects rather than medical ones) as “anti-vaccine” or even “baby killer”.

    Those who express the worry about the unhealthiness of drugs also face the persecution by a pharmaceutical company. Example:


    “AN international drug company made a hit list of doctors who had to be “neutralised” or discredited because they criticised the anti-arthritis drug the pharmaceutical giant produced.”

    Same with climate change. Even your guru James Randi took notice of this. He had just tried to verify if it is even possible to predict climate for a long term with appropriate accuracy to make a decision about global warming.


    So now put youself into the seat of the conservative that is watching the abortion debate. He knows that leftists are dogmatic, and hypocrites from his previous experiences with political correctness, anti-male feminism etc. He sees that they argue from freedom as the highest value. He knows they are against freedom from his experiences with vaccinations etc. Thus he has a full right to reject the whole argumentation simply because the source cannot be trusted to be honest and is self-contradictory when it comes to basic assumptions.


    Going back to they type of “humanism” that leads to blaming people for everything bad that happens. You seem to be a bad case of it.

    “I really do not understand how you can blame an agent with no choice or ability to understand society at large and let the person off the hook.” That’s really bad, but peraps I’ll be able to explain it somewhat.

    An asteroid hits the Earth and kills the dinosaurs. How do you blame a human for this? Similar case in the present – an asteroid hits a city and kills inhabitants. Do you put astronomers, military guys (or astrologers, oracles and prophets) in prison for what happened?

    It’s a very dangerous and prevalent bias. To always attack humans. A device or a system broke – find guilty ones among humans. When a corporation screws you – attack the representative. Consider “taxing the rich” – the richest entities are corporations, and they have various breaks granted to them – it’s always about putting extraorbitant taxes on HUMANS, who are average weahtlh, not the corporations that are thousands times as rich.

    You gave a military example. Consider a possible scenario: a fully automated drone is sent on a partol. It massacres some civilians. Would you punish people for this? Whom? Assume additionally that: automated drones have lower rates of collateral damages that human-piloted anything, engeneers did the best job possible given the budget they had, the reason for drone being there was a legitimate fight against terrorists.

  43. jdog says

    I probably should have capitalized it in my first reply. He’s Objectivist in the deluded fantasy/Ayn Rand/2012 Vice-Presidential nominee sense, not the early 19th-century actual philosophy sense.

  44. says

    @Tomasz R.

    You’re doing it again. You’re being sloppy with your use of facts.

    It showed that 78% of the female scientists and 71% of the male scientists working in that State were childless.

    Being a scientist is not a genetic trait. As such, at the very least, you’ve left unsaid significant parts of your argument.

    This is not a counter-argument, nor is it an invitation to discussion. Reply or not, that’s up to you. My point is simply this: like in the case I pointed out earlier, you’re being sloppy in your argumentation. Before, you assumed something that isn’t the case. Here, you’re jumping to a conclusion that you haven’t actually argued for and which is not supported by the statistic you cite.

  45. Hertta says

    Yes, I get it. Just wanted to point out the word choices. For some reason, they really like to talk about females instead of women. Men usually get to be men.

  46. Tomasz R. says

    First of all – my analysis of abortion issue was uniquely superior to a typical form of argumentation, including what Matt presented in a debate. The reasons are:

    1) I didn’t start from any conclusion, but rather as an objective observer of the subject. So no advocacy involved here, just honest trial at reaching the conclusion via analysing facts.
    2) I didn’t started from some fixed basic values, but tried to encompass all typical values: freedom, public good, balancing interests of all sides etc. to check what are the results of starting from any of them.
    3) I didn’t try to omit, keep silent about or censor any conclusion, even if they are not popular or liked.
    4) There was an interesting aspect involved about checking the quality of thinking of some abortion debaters, by validating their integrity – if they really propagate values they claim in every aspect of the world, or are this values just a secial pleading in the case of abortion.
    5) There was an interesting point about problems with bans and mandates themselves – can you trust your government to do the right thing?
    6) There was an interesting thread about bad treatment of people compared to corporations or other objects.

  47. says

    Well, I did say I wasn’t inviting discussion, so I guess I can’t criticize you for not responding to what I said.
    I will suggest that maybe your “uniquely superior analysis” isn’t the only reasons why one person after another has given up on this discussion.

  48. codemonkey says

    Well, this is my first time with him, so I’m still game for a little while. It’s his turn to reply to our sub-thread. Seems like he’s not interested.

  49. Tomasz R. says

    You make a strawman argument: “you do not get to make that decision for her”.

    First of all – In this whole debate I don’t even have a position on the issue in question! This is all an objective analysis from premises to conclusions (sth. like if the premise is public good then the conclusion is …). And by showing analogies eg. of mandatory completion of pregnancy to other things that are mandated by the state – like draft or mandatory vaccines. And not even in the sense that I support some of these – just to show that people can have a broken, inconsistent worldview, by making a special pleading to freedom only in cases of abortion.

    Secondly – noone but you ever suggestet that it’s me who should be making decisions about pregnancies or abortns. It’s a very absurd stance. In all cases of mandatory-something the decisions are made by regulators, courts and commitees, or even directly by voters. Or by dictators…


    Your arguments: “Noone can tell…”, “Noone can tell…” is invalid. Scientists are able to sequence genes, find ones for genetic dieseases or vunerabilites, but also those for positive traits – intelligence, strenght, resistance to dieseases etc. And this ability grows with time.

    Even in the past a woman usually knen who was the father, and so what to expect from the child who interits from her and the father.

    So individualized decision is and was possible. No strict dogmatic, extremists stances of either abortion bans, or full abortion anarchy are necessary.

    What is absolutely wrong is claiming that:

    1) A fetus has absolutely no deterministic value at the moment of it’s existance. The example of a good genetic code (notice it’s not a potential, its about the good code itsef, as it exists at present) destroys this belief. To explain further – a civilization may need to have good types of codes reproduce and propagate, rather than broken, damaged ones, INDEPENDANT of the fact of what the personal achievments of the code bearers are.

    2) A potential is something that is not a part of reality. It’s like saying that in a case of high-risk prengancy the dangers are not real, but just “potential”, so no exceptions should apply.

    Potential is a part of reality and it has a value in itself. Things don’t have to be determnistic to be valuable. Our whole civilization as it is now is fully dependant on operating on probabilities and risks.

  50. codemonkey says

    This are your arguments as best as I understand them:

    Mandatory vaccines are comparable to conscripting the mothers body to force birth.

    This argument relies on comparing the harms and benefits. You cited three possible benefits:

    Not having an abortion can have value to the mother.
    Not having an abortion can have value to the baby.
    Not having an abortion can have value to other members of society.

    1: Not having an abortion can have value to the mother.
    The mother gets to decide what is best for her, even if she’s wrong. Personal automony is king. See “Harm Principle”. Every person is their own sovereign.

    2: Not having an abortion can have value to the baby.
    There cannot be a value to the baby until it has a mind. Early term abortions happen before the baby has a mind. Thus there can be no value in this case. It does not matter if the baby will be super intelligent or not because it does not have a mind. Under this purported benefit, using contraception is ok, not having sex is ok, and killing early term fetuses is ok, for exactly the same reasons.

    3: Not having an abortion can have value to other members of society.
    I do not care if certain genetic strands die off. I don’t care if all Japanese people stopped having kids tomorrow. This does harm to no one. To conscript a Japanese mother’s body to force births is to implement harm without benefit.
    Next, you cite some sort of bullshit about genetics. This is all smoke and mirrors without benefit. It has not been demonstrated that having a more intelligent population will result in a happier, freer, more materially wealthy society.
    There is a demonstrable massive benefit to other people, everyone in society, if everyone gets vaccinated for certain diseases. There is no such demonstrable benefit to the happiness, material wealth, and freedom of people with your bullshit genetics arguments. Please, name one. Name one realistic example where people might be happier, freer, or more materially wealthy if we force someone to stay pregnant and give birth. You cannot use the mother or the future child, because I’ve already covered those cases elsewhere. You need to find a single realistic example of forcing birth on some woman will make other existing members of society 1- happier, 2- more materially wealthy, or 3- freer. You cannot do this, and that is a failure in your analogy. It must be realistic, because we’re discussing policy that we want to actually implement. If you want to talk hypotheticals about non-existent worlds, then first admit that you are with me for the world we live in, and then we can start a new conversation about a fictional world.
    Finally, the other failure of your analogy is the great difference of inflicted harm between forced pregnancy and birth vs vaccinations. Vaccinations are an hour of your time with miniscule chances of side effects. Forced pregnancy and birth is 9 months of your life (probably longer) which has great changes on your body. It’s highly inconveniencing, expensive, and dangerous.
    Thus, minimal risks and minimal time of vaccines, plus super benefits, is completely different than no demonstrable benefits of no abortions, and the much greater harm done.

  51. Tomasz R. says

    Wow. You are trying hard to create a classic of how to loose a debate!

    You start from abortions being killing of BABIES, then you dogmatically state that babies have no value: “There cannot be a value to the BABY until it has a mind. […] abortions happen before the BABY has a mind. Thus there can be no value in this case. It does not matter if the BABY will be super intelligent or not because it does not have a mind.” I know it’s a slip… but you have just lost a debate.

    Then you go on, how you DON’T CARE about important things. “I do not care if certain genetic strands die off. I don’t care if all Japanese people stopped having kids tomorrow.” You have just lost a second time. Nobody is going to listen to you if you don’t care (unless you are famous beforehand). You certainly won’t win elections in Japan if you say what you just said, so you will not have any influence on the decisions anyway 🙂 Only those who care, or pretend to care get to decide. In both cases the problem is addressed – in first case in a superior way, in second case in inferior way, but at least some resources are assigned to it, a commitee is working on it etc.

    You third loss is conditional – you loose badly, but only if your opponent has appropriate knowledge. It’s about your denial of role of intelligence in the society. And about role of genes in developing ingelligence. It’s strange that you do this after I’ve provided a link from a conservative, that contained a justified compaint that leftwingers are in a dogmatic denial of IQ role and IQ differences. It means you don’t read, don’t listen – the evidence is out there easy to find for everybody.

    A good resource to start is here:

    Besides – your argument, even if it was not wrong, is an argument from ignorance. “ It has not been demonstrated that having a more intelligent population …”. Even if there was no proof, people in power have to decide about future strategy and actions anyway. They don’t have a comfort of skeptics – getting stuck when there’s no evidence. In such situations they just bet on a choice perceived as better. What should they bet their future on – a population with high intelligence or a population with not high intelligence?

    Another of your, and many other people’s problem is not understanding the idea of classification vs. value. You write that: “failure of your analogy is the great difference of inflicted harm between forced pregnancy and birth vs vaccinations.”. Let me explain a category to you: getting someones 10$ without his permission from his purse is stealing, doing the same to his 1000$ laptop is stealing, doing the same with his 30k$ car is also stealing, to his 1 mln$ jewelery collection is stealing and so on… It’s still classified as the same thing, despite having a drastic difference in value. You are seriously lacking consistency if you say “I’m for stealing 10$, but against stealing jewelery”. It’s exactly the same when you cry for freedom and against violating body integrity when it comes to pregnancies, while supporting government tyrrany and violating body integrity when it comes to mandatory vaccinations.

    Not to mention that you are just showing a propaganda by exagerating positive effects of vaccines and negative effects of pregnancies, downplaying positiive sides of pregnancies and negative sides of vaccines.

    Example of positive benefits of finishing pregnancy:

    Example of negative side effects of vaccines:

    Yet another lack of consistency is the topic of value of genes. If it was a debate about evolution, then most likely we would hear some Selfish Gene theory, explaining that genes are the driving force for evolution, that organisms are just survival vehicles, that genes are so great, as they encode so much information that defines us etc. When the topic changes to abortion, then suddenly public hears that genes in and of itself are worthless…

    When it comes to the positive effects of abortn bans, I’m not the one to talk to. You have to contact people who were born due to abortion ban.

  52. says

    A blastocyst is not a baby.

    Anyway, even if we were to grant full personhood to a fetus, the fact would still not supersede a woman’s bodily autonomy.

    Every argument that does not acknowledge a woman’s bodily autonomy and personal choice is just smoke.

  53. codemonkey says

    First: Protip: The word you are looking for is “lose”, not “loose”.

    I thank for you clarifying your position sufficiently that I think I am understand your position well enough that I am able to conclude I probably won’t change your mind, you probably won’t change mine, but I understand our differences. Allow me to summarize them, to make sure we’re on the same page. Otherwise I think I’m done with the you and this conversation, now and in the future.

    I care only about the well-being, happiness, suffering, etc., of conscious minds, present and future. Specifically, I do not care whether minds take actions which prevent the birth of new minds on its own “value”; it does not have value. I do not care if people choose to forgo sex when the opportunity presents itself. I do not care if people choose to use a condom when having sex. I do not care if people use the daily pill which is known to prevent implantation of fertilized eggs. I do not care if people use the day-after pill to kill days old pregnancies. I do not care if people kill early term pregnancies when the fetus does not have a mind. (I would argue for even more, but let’s keep it simple for you.) You seem to disagree, but how and where I’m not sure. Normally I would care and I would ask you to clarify, but in this sitatuation I’m pretty sure I no longer care what you say.

    It follows from the above that I do not care if certain ethnic groups die off from otherwise moral attrition. Ethnic groups dying off and no longer existing from normal attrition – so what? Will it affect the happiness, material wealth, and well-being of existing and future minds? It will not. We’re not going to be richer in the future just because my own genetic Cherokee heritage is preserved. We’re not giong to be happier in the future because my own genetic Cherokee heritage is preserved. Thus I do not care if some time in the future the genetic heritage of Cherokee ends. You seem to care, and I do not care that you care.

    I believe that we ought to evaluate plans based on their demonstrable and likely benefits and harms, not on purported benefits and harms that have no scientific evidence behind them. You seem to think that pulling out of your ass a purported benefit is sufficient to override the demonstrable harm of a plan. I call this wishful thinking, and insanity.

    You seem to believe certain moral absolutes, such as “theft is always wrong”. More weakly, perhaps you believe that someone is inconsistent if they don’t have some simple naive moral prohibitions against certain classes of actions without exceptions. I believe that we should evaluate plans based on their demonstrable and likely harms and benefits, and I believe that great good can outweight small harms. (My view is a bit more nuanced; I’ve explained in detail else-thread.) Thus, I believe that theft, and even the killing of a person with a mind, can be justified in certain situations. Ex: I believe the police, and everyone else, have the right to kill someone if they are acting in (immediate) self defense or the defense of others from (immediate) grave bodily injury.

    I believe from the scientific consensus and evidence that vaccines work, and I believe from the scientific consensus and evidence that the risk of side effects of vaccines is very very small, much smaller than the benefits of eradicating diseases, like polio. You seem to doubt the evidence and the scientific consensus in favor of fringe groups who don’t even understand basic statistics.

    I believe that a person is soveriegn over themself, and they have the moral right to do or not do whatever they want, except so far as it might affect other people. You seem to think that other people have the moral right to override a person’s personal choice in their own life, even when it doesn’t affect other people. And you call me a tyrant, oh lol.

    You think that because evolution by natural selection happens, that we ought not stand in its way, and furthermore you think that we ought to help along natural selection by killing the weak or aiding the fit. I think that evolution by natural selection does as a matter of fact happen, and I think that in a great many situations we ought to act against it. Similarly, I believe that as a matter of fact cancer happens and kills people, and I believe we ought to act against cancer. For further details see: