Open thread for episode #926: Russell and Martin


Swing away!

This week on the show we dealt with the perennial objective morality question, and tackled an issue about whether it makes sense to try to stop parents from indoctrinating their kids.

Comments

  1. Hippycow says

    Argh! Wade in Minnesota with the nonsense about “objective” morality. When someone trots out the example of torturing babies for fun as objectively morally wrong, you need to stop right there and destroy that stupid, idiotic, moronic example. It is just too stupid on so many levels. Don’t just let it go by and continue the discussion as if he said something intelligent or valid.

    First, the implication is that there are moral reasons to torture babies, but “for fun” just isn’t one of them. Essentially, as long as you aren’t having fun, then there could be good reasons to torture babies. Like if you want to get information out of the baby’s parents, then you could torture the baby in front of its parents and as long as you aren’t having fun, then that’s a moral way to extract information from the parents. Or, to go biblical, for just a couple of the many, many examples: dashing babies against rocks is okay, if it is part of a genocide (which is apparently moral if god is on your side) and torture and death by drowning is okay if the babies “deserve” it because they (or their parents and/or society) have sinned too much.

    Heck, what about circumcision? Is it objectively moral? Is it objectively moral if the mohel has fun?

    Second, this example is just an extreme example of some moral question. Extreme moral questions are the easy ones. The difficult ones are the more nuanced and complicated variety. The fact that we have near universal agreement that torturing babies is morally wrong does not mean it is an objective moral. It just means we have near-universal agreement (mostly because the example is so extreme).

    It is also worth noting on any moral issue that we never have actual universal agreement. The best we can get is near-universal, because there are amoral and insane people in the world who will provide an exception to the universal agreement. We can say they are amoral and/or insane, but that doesn’t change the fact that they exist.

    Third, whenever anyone brings up this “torturing babies for fun” BS, the first reply should be “do you think it is fun to torture babies?” And don’t let them avoid the question. Once they answer “no” then you can ask what kind of person would think it is fun. Well, the only answer is someone who is insane. Now you can ask what is the problem with this hypothetical insane person? Is this a person who is merely morally deficient? Who doesn’t understand “objective” morals? The answer is this is a person who is insane. We wouldn’t really want to blame or chastise this person so much as we would see that this person has a very serious mental disorder and needs institutionalization. In the old days of religious hegemony (or in any theocracy today) we probably would torture this person to death for being “bad,” but in any advanced society we would instead recognize that this person has a serious problem and should be separated from society and be given some sort help for that problem.

    Of course the other tack to take here is to simply emphasize that the caller is essentially saying that torturing babies is fun and then ridicule him for that. “Why do you think torturing babies is fun?”

    Most importantly, this is a stupid hypothetical. It doesn’t deserve a place in any intelligent discussion. Anyone who uses it should be made to feel the sting of embarrassment for presenting such an idiotic example of their “objective” morality.

  2. Conversion Tube says

    The guy who was yabering on about childrens rights. Right as he began I said out loud

    OH You don’t have kids do you? And then Russells second question, do you have kids.

    My kid just had a tantrum because I served her spagetti instead of Ice Cream, but I need to find the church that she approves of? LOL, I don’t like the guy with the big hat daddy, lets go to that guy with the blue suit and the beard. He reminded me of Santa.

  3. Russell Glasser says

    It was the first question that popped into my head, because whenever I hear somebody yammering about how little kids should make their own decisions, I immediately know for almost certain that this person has never been responsible for raising little kids. I mean, it’s not like non-parents can’t have an opinion on child raising. It’s just that there is a certain naivety that I can recognize, and I almost never hear parents talk like that.

  4. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Hippycow
    Seems like standard divine command theory to me. Their basic question is: “but if morality isn’t real like gravity, if morality doesn’t come from a divine lawgiver, then how can I determine if some moral claim is right or wrong?”, and further “if there is no divine lawgiver, then it’s all arbitrary”. They need morality to be a “real” element of the world, exactly analogous to gravity, and their world view just cannot handle the notion that morality doesn’t come from anywhere, and it doesn’t exist in the same sense that gravity exists.

    I see it repeated time and time again. They hold on to their false notions about an afterlife, about absolute justice, that the world is a good place, etc. Unfortunately, it acts as a wonderful excuse to ensure that they never do anything to improve the world – for others, and even for themselves. IMHO, it’s an incredibly self destructive behavior. At its heart, IMHO, it’s a classic fallacious appeal to consequences because to some degree they’re not emotionally ready to handle the world for what it is, and so they retreat to this fantasy.

    The world sucks, but we can make it better, and the only way to make it better is to first recognize it for what it is.

    Note: This post is not talking about all believers. I’m just talking about the ones who are hard-up on divine command theory.

  5. corwyn says

    I wish we could make it clear at the outset that ‘morals subject to a god’s will’ is subjective morality. Objective morality would have to come from somewhere other than a human or a god, (i.e. perhaps be inherent like math). They can then argue all they want for morality subject to a god’s will. Without this the conversation just goes in circles. Of course if they did this it would be transparently obviously a circular argument if they wanted to use ‘morals subject to a god’s will’ to prove the existence of said god. Oh well.

  6. Matzo Ball Soup says

    A good starting point would be to think about etiquette, which it’s easier to see is not universal. Answering the question “Would it be polite to do X?” is going to depend heavily on who’s involved and what you know about their preferences. One person might expect you do do a particular thing, while another might find it annoying or embarrassing or whatever. And, of course, it varies from culture to culture. Actions that we would apply the label “moral” or “immoral” to are arguably just the same thing with higher stakes. Instead of “am I going to annoy my colleague by doing this?”, we’re talking about real potential harm in these cases. But it’s the same *kind* of question we ask and base our decisions on: what will the effects of this action be, and how does that match up with our desires/values/needs, and those of others?

    I was a little surprised that (if I remember correctly) the caller spoke of “morally good actions” as things that it’s *imperative* that you do. My intuition is more that actions are either acceptable or unacceptable in a given context, where the scale of “acceptable” actions has actions that selflessly benefit others on one end, and actions that may cause some harm but are taken in order to avert some greater harm on the other.

    Also, I was super weirded out by the guy who said he was converting to Judaism. It sounded like he was fetishizing Jewish culture, and felt drawn to it based on nothing more than stereotypes. (They have good food and cool Seders!) The “weeaboo” mentality, in other words…except in this case it’s more like “WeeaJew”. [/bad pun mode]

  7. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I wish we could make it clear at the outset that ‘morals subject to a god’s will’ is subjective morality.

    Well said! I often say the same thing. IMHO, when someone makes the objective morality argument, often (but not always), it amounts to a “might makes right” argument, which I find infuriating.

    Again, if Stargate SG-1 has taught me anything, it is that the proper response to evil gods is not to bow down and worship, but to blow them up. Nuke god!

  8. xscd says

    I am enjoying the discussion of so-called objective morality.

    As Corwyn said, if a morality comes from a god (and does not exist independently from that god) it is subjective, not objective. Moreover, If my religion’s morality differs from yours in various details, it’s like saying, “my god’s morality is better than your god’s,” which seems like an obvious case of the dreaded (by religious people) “relative morality.”

    In my view, morality merely consists of value judgements about some, but not all, aspects of human behavior, and as hippy cow mentioned, we merely have a functional, pragmatic idea of what those morals include. We don’t categorize everything we do as “good” or “bad,” including whether we have oatmeal, dry cereal or eggs for breakfast.

    We may have a consensus, but not an objective morality, even though we may agree upon certain criteria to base our moral judgements upon.

  9. says

    The idea of objective morality is a non-nonsensical concept. Objectivity is based upon the action, not the characteristics pertaining to that action. “For fun” is a subjective qualifier, thus rendering the objectivity null by assuming the example only works if the perp is “having fun” while performing the action. Objectively (im)moral actions are classified as such due to being that for ALL people, at ALL times, in ALL places.

    Once even the smallest qualifier is changed, the supposed nature of the act is changed to the opposing label, such as the perp is a dentist, and as a former child ANY visit to the dentist resulted in torture, and any dentist worth going to MUST love doing what (s)he does so they are doing it and having fun, thus a scenario that torturing a child for fun is moral. A nurse cleaning up a baby after being born is another example, since a newborn’s skin must be sensitive, thus torture to be scrubbed clean, yet even I can say cleaning up and holding a newborn baby is fun.

    If the morals are given by a being, who doesn’t have to follow those same rules themselves, then they cannot be objective morals. If anyone can point to any action objectively moral, or immoral, I’ll convert that day.

  10. xscd says

    Also, regarding objective morality, I object to so many theists’ definition, including one of the callers, that objective morals are those “which hold” independently of our thoughts about them. “Which hold” is classic wiggle-room rhetoric.

    The first question I might ask them is whether they believe an objective morality exists and why, and what its source may be. If it is like a natural physical law, then would this “objective morality” exist even if there were no humans and no living beings in the universe at all?

  11. xscd says

    Also, I object to the idea that morality comes, or must come, from (a) god or religion when there exists a perfectly natural morality or collection of behaviors, even among other species, based upon social cooperation and empathy, among other criteria.

  12. says

    Objective morals disappear when less than two people exist. If I were on a deserted island, and “owned” everything, could I steal from myself? Could I murder myself? How about lie, or commit adultery against myself? Even a god, existing as a sole entity couldn’t be moral, due to this god being unable to commit any immoral action against itself. Morals require more than one person, a “perp” and a “victim”.

  13. Hippycow says

    @Jeff Ware #10 — Yes, I think you sum it up nicely. “Objective morality” is simply an oxymoron.

    Another common oxymoron among religious people and even new-age acolytes is “unconditional love.” I always think it is funny that they’ll say “Jesus loves you unconditionally, …all you have to do is [condition]!” Duh. That’s a condition (regardless of whether it is believing, accepting, “confessing,” surrendering, etc).

    Even the new-age “spiritual” cheese balls who want to say they love their children or dog, or cat, or tree, or self, or whatever “unconditionally” are full of it. There are loads of conditions, starting with the condition that the target of that “unconditional love” is a particular entity (your child, yourself, your dog, etc.) and invariably adding lots of implicit conditions and behaviors which can cause that “unconditional” love to evaporate.

  14. says

    My favorite is “omni” whatever. The best being omnipresent, thus being in all places.
    They forget that includes every atom of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.
    This means literally every atom IS the same god,
    ergo the only evil being in the universe is their lonely omnipresent god.
    They suddenly stop coming around to proselytize.

  15. xscd says

    Again, because morals are merely value judgments about human behaviours, who decides upon which specific behaviors to attach moral judgements (and which of innumerable behaviors to ignore, like whether to have chocolate or vanilla ice cream), and why must the judgement be only an either/or “good or evil” instead of a greater number of variations or arbitrary classifications? Why can’t a moral judgement of a particular behavior be merely “OK” or “fine (or disadvantageous) under most or many circumstances?

    It seems like religious people are always trying to make morality more absolute than it actually is.

  16. Monocle Smile says

    @EL
    Were you dancing by your computer when Martin made his points about “supernatural causation?”

    @xscd

    It seems like religious people are always trying to make morality more absolute than it actually is.

    It’s even worse than that. The problem is that they don’t think morality is about the well-being of humanity. Well, at least they pretend like this is the case because their religion demands that they do. So it’s not just about differing moral opinions…we’re not even talking about the same thing.

  17. andy russia says

    the second to last caller is a little psychopath.
    first, there was already a huge transfer of cultural authority from old people to younger people in the 60’s, now he wants to take it further one step.
    second, kids are impressible as f** and bad material for the legal system to work with. expect a lot of arbitrariness and broken lives. didn’t the satanic ritual abuse hysteria teach people anything?
    third, how to tell whether the kid not wanting to go to church is because he disagrees on theological grounds or simply being defiant?
    I’m an atheist and everything, but what the caller suggests is like from a bad movie. Not even the Soviets had such ambitions in micromanaging people and families. That’s SJWs and childless idealists for you…
    he should think less about kids and more about getting some p**y, can’t be so difficult in Czechia.

  18. xscd says

    @jeff ware

    Objective morals disappear when less than two people exist. If I were on a deserted island…

    Objective morals would not exist in any case, although a person alone, with no other person nor living thing nor god in the universe, could still (if he wanted) make moral judgements about his own behavior–

    “Would it be better to count the grains of sand on this beach, or the stars in the sky? Would it be bad to consider the desperate loneliness and futility of my life? Would it be bad to throw myself off the cliff over there, or to fling myself into the water and hope that there might be another creature who will eat me, or that I might drown before I reflexively save myself?”

    Morality is simply a value judgement about behavior.

  19. andy russia says

    > he should think less about kids and more about getting some p**y, can’t be so difficult in Czechia.
    some adult p**y, I mean. One never knows with Westerners choosing to live in Eastern Europe, of all places.

  20. xscd says

    @monocle smile
    Religious or nonreligious, our moral judgements all come from ourselves, even the ones we ascribe to a god. The religious just feel the need to claim that their morals come from an authority we should accept and not question. My question to them is why? We do perfectly well agreeing to practical sets of morals without a god.

    Religious people find it difficult to accept that a god, even if one exists, is not necessary, which I suppose is the reason for all their “god is necessary for creation to have occurred” arguments. Even if a god were to exist, why would or should it care if we thought it could or should exist?

    Religious people have long strings of “needs” that they try to satisfy with a god, a (particular) religion and various artficial imperatives. It’s as though they can’t stand to not be in chains, are fearful at the thought of being truly free.

  21. Monocle Smile says

    We do perfectly well agreeing to practical sets of morals without a god

    Sure, but not according to believers. They think we’re living in a Crapsack World and it’s only getting worse. AronRa has a brilliant talk called “Religion Reverses Everything” and it’s constantly relevant. Religion drives people to see good things as bad because it attempts to redefine “good” and “bad.”

    Even if a god were to exist, why would or should it care if we thought it could or should exist?

    I have no clue. I ask this often to believers, and the most common response is a blank stare. They haven’t thought that far ahead. It’s off the script.

  22. Jeff Ware says

    Morals are, by definition, how we judge our actions toward others. Autonomy implies that nothing you do to yourself can be immoral. Right and wrong is a different subject. Due to self preservation it isn’t “right” to chop off a hand, or feed yourself to the sharks. This labels actions as correct or incorrect, versus good or evil.

  23. xscd says

    I think that everyone does things they believe to be “good” in some way. Even Hitler and serial killers have their “good” reasons. Even a mother who neglects, abuses or kills her own child would have “good” reasons for doing so, or at least an absence of bad reasons for not doing so. ISIS has good reasons, at least from their point of view, to commit the atrocities they do, and even a theoretical “objective morality” to base them upon, however mistaken and misguided they may be.

    So “bad” doesn’t really fit much into the picture of what we do and why, unless we’re one of those people who puts himself into a psychological and behavioral strait jacket for religious or other reasons, and that can’t be healthy. We get tangled up in morality too easily, when in my opinion it should be fairly straightforward and simple, like the “golden rule” of the (purported) Jesus. It seems natural and healthy to base our moral judgements upon social cooperation and empathy and to behave according to that, without the need for a long list of “thou shalt nots.”

  24. xscd says

    @jeff ware

    Morals are, by definition, how we judge our actions toward others. Autonomy implies that nothing you do to yourself can be immoral.

    You may view it thay way, but in my view morals are how we judge our actions, period, which is why some people think it is bad or wrong to commit suicide, or to eat food they consider unhealthy, or to foul the environment.

  25. xscd says

    @ jeff ware
    Morality is not necessatily confined to the concepts of “good or evil,” “right or wrong,” “correct or incorrect,” nor necessarily to any two “opposites.” Morality can include all of those and much more besides, to a range of choices and values.

    You may have a more strict or specific definition of morality, but not everyone does.

  26. Narf says

    @13 – Jeff Ware

    Objective morals disappear when less than two people exist.

    I fixed that for you.  If there are no other people that you can affect, there is no morality.  Objectivity and subjectivity don’t even enter into it, at that point.

  27. Narf says

    @18 – xscd

    … although a person alone, with no other person nor living thing nor god in the universe, could still (if he wanted) make moral judgements about his own behavior–

    I don’t think he can make moral judgments about his own behavior, within that scope.  All he can really consider are practical effects of his actions.  With no other living thing in the universe, the closest he could come is (very briefly, before he starved to death) coming up with moral hypotheticals about how he would act if there were other living beings.

  28. Narf says

    @23 – xscd

    You may view it thay way, but in my view morals are how we judge our actions, period, which is why some people think it is bad or wrong to commit suicide, or to eat food they consider unhealthy, or to foul the environment.

    All three of those things affect other people, man.  Your examples are not supporting your claim.

  29. xscd says

    @narf
    All three of those things may typically affect other people (as well), but not necesarily, within the potentially limited scope of one’s life, or only minimally may do so (in the case of a suicide, there will often, but not always, be a body to deal with or dispose of), and one’s moral (or practical, in your view) considerations may not include thoughts about those affects upon others.

    In our usual reality, however, our morality tends to have both private and a public components, so we (or I, anyway) are speaking of unlikely hypotheticals for the sake of argument. I maintain that one person, alone in the universe or on a particular planet, without consideration for others or a god, could if he wanted make value judgements (morals, in my view) about his own behavior; it wouldn’t be necessary, but he could certainly do so.

  30. xscd says

    @narf
    I may decide that littering my own living area is “bad” or “wrong” because it harms myself, without any consideratio for how it might affect anyone else.

  31. xscd says

    To illustrate a moral code that is not necessarily interactive (does not necessarily involve other people), the Ayatollah Khomeini (if anyone remembers him) espoused a complex code of behavior that included exactly how to wipe oneself after defecation.

    And if anyone has heard of the philosophy or religion (I’m not sure what it is) of Goldot, it is similarly (and nonsensically) detailed.

  32. frankgturner says

    The whole “morality that comes from a god is not objective” principle ties into my ongoing idea that the god is really just a projection of our primate instinctive drive for an alpha authority figure. The “it is objective because my alpha authority figure is omnipotent” bullshit excuse goes right along with the idea that one’s image of a god is really just a projection of themselves.
    .
    Dark matter does a good video on YouTube about how when we reject the god of a believer they take it personally because they take it as a rejection of them self. Fits in well too. I once heard it said that god did not create man in his image, man created god in man’s image.

  33. says

    @xscd

    But the Ayatollah does think there is another person involved: Allah. Maybe that’s what the believer’s “objective morality” comes down to. They intuit that not even a hypothetical situation would they ever be alone in the universe. There’s always another person that’s going to be harmed or not by their behaviour–and since the gods know your thoughts, even thinking x or y can be immoral. Hmm. That would be for the sophistimicated theologians though. Most just go with divine command theory and leave it at that.

  34. corwyn says

    @30 xscd:

    On the contrary, how one cleans oneself is a profoundly social thing. Transmission of pathogens is a hugely important idea for social species. “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” Heck, *CATS* have morals about how they clean up after they defecate.

    I agree with you that morals don’t require other humans, or even other living things, *by definition* [this one: “a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.” -google]

  35. Narf says

    @xscd

    All three of those things may typically affect other people (as well), but not necesarily, within the potentially limited scope of one’s life, or only minimally may do so (in the case of a suicide, there will often, but not always, be a body to deal with or dispose of),

    And if it affects other people, then there are moral considerations in your decision about whether or not you should commit suicide.  If you’re on a desert island, on an alien planet, and there’s no way you’re ever going to see another sapient being again, then your decision about whether to live out what’s left of your life as well as you can manage or whether to just kill yourself and get it over with has no moral component.  What possible moral concerns could factor into your decision, for any meaningful usage of the concept of morality?

    You seem to be stuck within the framework of Divine Command Theory, which is freaking useless and is not morality. Any kind of consequentialist theory of morality tosses morality out the window, in this situation.

    … and one’s moral (or practical, in your view) considerations may not include thoughts about those affects upon others.

    No!  Just because you can Frankenstein them into a parenthetical statement that bastardizes my usage of the terms, that does not make ‘moral’ and ‘practical’ synonymous.

    In our usual reality, however, our morality tends to have both private and a public components, so we (or I, anyway) are speaking of unlikely hypotheticals for the sake of argument. I maintain that one person, alone in the universe or on a particular planet, without consideration for others or a god, could if he wanted make value judgements (morals, in my view) about his own behavior; it wouldn’t be necessary, but he could certainly do so.

    You’re flipping terms and using softer, more vague terminology, when your argument falls apart.  Look at how you switched to the term value judgement, when a straight-out usage of the term ‘moral decisions’ would have been nonsensical.

    Name one value judgement that would have any impact upon anything, in that situation, for any useful meaning of ‘values’.  Does the guy have a value about tossing a bit of salt over his shoulder before he eats, because the ground likes it when he does so?  Does he have to spin clockwise, before he washes his hands?  Does he have to wash his hands before he eats?

    The last of those things is merely a practical concern, so he doesn’t get bacteria in his food.  The first two things are just obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    I may decide that littering my own living area is “bad” or “wrong” because it harms myself, without any consideratio for how it might affect anyone else.

    And that’s a practical concern.  It has no moral component at all.

    To illustrate a moral code that is not necessarily interactive (does not necessarily involve other people), the Ayatollah Khomeini (if anyone remembers him) espoused a complex code of behavior that included exactly how to wipe oneself after defecation.
    And if anyone has heard of the philosophy or religion (I’m not sure what it is) of Goldot, it is similarly (and nonsensically) detailed.

    Like Ibis and Corwyn already said, doing things to inhibit the spread of disease definitely has a moral component.  All of the rules we have about food preparers washing their hands after using the bathroom, before they go back to work, are definitely for the benefit of others.

    If you’re doing the required washing out of blind obedience, with no understanding of the reasons, you might not be making a moral decision.  If you’re realizing that doing so is a good idea, because you don’t want to infect others with your intestinal bacteria, then you’re making a moral decision.

    The addition of the fine, obsessive details is just a practical consideration.  After you see half of the men in your society (is anyone else disgusted how many men wander out of the bathroom, after handling their crotch and/or taking a crap, without washing their hands?) dipping their finger tips in water for two seconds, then considering their hands to be purified, clearly you have to go back to basics and get a bit tougher about what gets someone’s hands clean.

  36. Sean Palmatier says

    If we want to have an honest discussion about the objectivity or subjectivity of ethics, and evaluate specific thought systems, past and present, in terms ethics/morality, it is first necessary to agree on the terms of discussion. At the most basic:
    A- Morality does not exist purely in the vacuum of abstract, philosophical thought experimentation; it has real world effects on human beings and human societies.

    B- If this is so, then morality must be evaluated by its impact especially with regard to action, i.e. if an act knowingly causes harm it is not moral, further if an act taken with moral intent inadvertently does harm it becomes immoral if the effect remains willfully unacknowledged, and no attempt is made to ensure that the effect is not repeated.

    This gives plenty of room for thought experimentation but seems to cover the fundamental precepts necessary to begin an evaluation of applied ethics. Appeals to history are often used to make a number of arguments, such as moral relativism in the tacit approval, or at least non-judgment, of immoral acts in the context of an earlier period. This is an inherently unethical position because it skews the narrative in favor of the perspective of those committing the immoral act.

    To demonstrate I would utilize an example frequently employed on AXP: slavery. Throughout human history the enslavement of disadvantaged and marginalized people has been, to greater and lesser extents, a shamefully common practice. In the field of historical study it is correctly taught that one must not anachronistically impose present values onto past societies in the evaluation of its history. However, it is unlikely that any enslaved people ever said to themselves, ‘ Though I do not care for my condition as property, nor the capricious nature of my existence at the whim of someone who claims ownership over me, it is consistent with the views of this period.’ If that were the case there would never have been a case of any slave uprising against their master. Therefore, by including the perspective of those victimized by such unethical acts or institutions as equal in value we see in actuality that the minimal basis of objective morality does exist throughout human history as evidenced by those who did not wish to be victimized.

    The next logical question is then, how does the level of immoral consensus we see come to be ingrained in societies throughout history and into the present? The uncomfortable truth is that human beings have actively sought to make basic morality relative, often to the benefit of those in a position to set standards, and by appealing to authority. That authority has often been religious in nature, but how many have also justified committing atrocities by stating that they were just ‘following orders?’ Any thought system that has a loophole, or in some cases a requirement, to hurt, enslave, kill, or oppress other people it is inherently immoral. If you support that system, you are actively participating in unethical behavior. This should be a given.

    Ethics as a system of knowledge, like other knowledge bases, can and should be updated based on analysis of experience past and present in order to achieve better understanding, and better practices. It is important to keep in mind that knowledge transfers by being taught; something being known in one place and time does not make it universal knowledge. If someone never questioned their participation in an unethical system because they were taught from childhood that it was correct, they would not see that system as immoral. This is not to say that any unethical acts would not be unethical, it is simply an acknowledgment that human beings are, sadly, often passive participants in such behavior. However, once that person has been exposed to information that would show that system to be unethical, and has been engaged in evaluating their behavior within that system, it is up to them whether they maintain their participation in that system. If they choose to do so afterward then their participation has become knowingly unethical (See B). For example, a person brought up to believe that the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world, never questioned it, and gave money to support it, finds out about the church’s practice of actively protecting child rapists from prosecution (never mind its history of violence in practice and doctrine) and continues to financially support the church is acting in a consciously immoral fashion. Or to put it another way, ISIS has recently been in the news as being engaged in acts of charity for Ramadan, would it be ethical to give money to ISIS for their charity work knowing the kind of violence that organization commits? Of course not.

    Well, I could go on but for now I hope to have positively participated in this important topic of discussion.

  37. Narf says

    Oh, and I should have addressed this specifically, but I forgot to add a bit about it:

    (in the case of a suicide, there will often, but not always, be a body to deal with or dispose of)

    This statement demonstrates how badly you’re missing the point.  If there are no other people around to have to deal with your body, who cares what state your body is in or what happens to it?  If there’s no one who will have to deal with it hanging around decomposing (if there are bacteria to do the job), then it doesn’t matter.

  38. Narf says

    Let me try this, xscd.

    What is the basis for the moral system that you’re proposing?  The basis of my morality is a consideration of how my actions impact those around me.  Any consequentialist foundation of morality needs to establish what the ultimate consideration should be … hell, any moral system of any sort needs to do that, for that matter.  Sure, you could set up a moral system that aims to not hurt the feelings of the sand, on the desert island that I’m stranded on, but why should I give a damn about that moral system, and why should I even consider it a moral system?

    The scenario under consideration rules out Divine Command Theory, too, since we’re assuming that the individual is the only sapient being that his/her actions will ever affect.  What other moral framework could you possibly be using?

  39. xscd says

    @narf
    I don’t believe in nor subscribe to “divine command theory.”

    In my view, morality is nothing more than conscious value judgements about various behaviors, using various criteria, varying from person to person.

  40. corwyn says

    Let’s not argue about definitions.

    Is there an aspect of morality that you (narf) think is incompatible with ‘value judgements’? Since none of us will ever be in your hypothetical all alone in the universe, can we dispense with that case?

    Is there an aspect of morality that you (xscd) think is incompatible with ‘harm to others’?

    If we don’t agree on the definition, can we taboo the word, and see if the conversation proceeds from there?

  41. bigwhale says

    I’m glad that Martin mentioned that there are many ways to judge morality. Morality is not a logic problem. There are many different systems examined by philosophers and every ethical system has its advantages and disadvantages. Following a god is a form of deontology. The usual goal of moral philosophy isn’t to come to an iron clad conclusion of what we should do. It is to examine a problem from a variety of different angles so we can make our decision with the best possible information. Deontolgy is often pretty good in extreme cases. If I wondered whether to hurt a baby, I can just rely on accepted rules and don’t have to do any evaluation myself.

    When a decision is more complicated there are other ethical systems such as virtue ethics or consequentialism. I may act to promote the virtues I would like to see in the world, but I should also look at the consequences of my actions. For example, someone anti-abortion for virtuous reasons may work to restrict access to family planning, but they also need to examine the consequences such as women getting back alley abortions and how restrictions primarily hurt lower income classes. Or someone who wants the consequences of more redistribution of wealth also should look at the decision through the lens of promoting the virtues we value in the society, such as freedom.

    Morality is not something that is developed through armchair thinking or prayer. It involves interacting with our world and other ways of thinking to tweak how we make decisions. People have devoted their lives on just small parts of one aspect of one moral philosophy, never thinking they are going to “solve” morality and the work will be done. But combined they have given us a robust web of ways to look at problems.

    But this is just how this non-expert sees things. I should have just linked to something like this blog series from an expert.

    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-ethics-part-vii-full-picture.html

  42. Robert, not Bob says

    Child Protective Services policing religious instruction of children to punish excessive indoctrination? No. No no no no no. A cultural expectation that teenagers don’t have to go to church if they don’t want to? Okay.

    I’ve always felt it’s wrong to destroy things unnecessarily-don’t increase entropy if you don’t have to. That’s not morality-which can only apply with organisms capable of suffering-but it’s always felt related.

  43. Narf says

    @xscd

    In my view, morality is nothing more than conscious value judgements about various behaviors, using various criteria, varying from person to person.

    What the hell does ‘value judgements’ mean?  I don’t think that even you understand what you mean, when you use that term.

    Could you answer the questions I asked in comment 36?  We need to step away from these seemingly deliberately obfuscatory words, or we can’t have a discussion.

    @corwyn

    Let’s not argue about definitions.

    Heh, screw that.  If xscd is using a definition of morality that is utterly incompatible with the definition of morality that everyone else in the conversation is using, what is the point of having a discussion with him?  Achieving definitional compatibility is step-one in a discussion.

    Is there an aspect of morality that you (narf) think is incompatible with ‘value judgements’?

    2 + 2 = 4.  That is a statement about values which isn’t a moral statement.

    Until xscd gives us a more useful working definition of morality, this conversation isn’t going anywhere.  I tried to pin him down to a definition, in comment 36, and he deflected.  I want his freaking definition of morality, and it better be useful.

    Since none of us will ever be in your hypothetical all alone in the universe, can we dispense with that case?

    I didn’t bring up the obscene hypothetical.  And since the given hypothetical exposes a massive flaw in xscd’s concept of morality, no, I’m not going to dispense with that case.

    If we don’t agree on the definition, can we taboo the word, and see if the conversation proceeds from there?

    Taboo which word?  Morality?  In a discussion of morality, you want to make the word ‘morality’ taboo?  You don’t see the inherent problem with that?

  44. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    For those who want to know: IIRC, Hovind got more time in jail because he filed a lien on his former property, directly contradicting an explicit court order to not do exactly that. In short, a lien is a legal document you can file that says that ownership of a property is contested, in order to inform potential buyers that the seller may not be the legal owner. The government took several properties of Hovind in order to cover his taxes owed, and Hovind filed a lien on several of those properties – presumably because he thinks that they are still his and the government’s seizure is invalid – despite court orders to not do exactly that. And that’s how you get yourself on contempt charges – or whatever it was exactly.

  45. Narf says

    Awesome.  I figured that was pretty much an inevitable conclusion, since he was violating a court order of his initial fraud case.  It was a sort of aggravation of the previous fraud.

    Where are you getting this from, though? I just ran a few Google searches, and the only thing close that I came up with is a Forbes article from May, which is obviously way out of date. Kent’s Wikipedia page hasn’t been updated with this, yet.

  46. corwyn says

    @42:

    Taboo which word? Morality? In a discussion of morality, you want to make the word ‘morality’ taboo? You don’t see the inherent problem with that?

    Yes, I do; No, I don’t; respectively. Since we seem unable to agree on a definition, that is the only sensible thing to do.

    If you would read http://lesswrong.com/lw/nu/taboo_your_words/ you can see what I am trying to do.

    What the hell does ‘value judgements’ mean?

    It means judging the value of actions as either good, bad, or in between. I shouldn’t think that too difficult. What does moral mean if it *doesn’t* mean evaluating actions as good, bad, or in between?

    2 + 2 = 4. That is a statement about values which isn’t a moral statement.

    I am embarrassed that you made that horrendous equivocation fallacy. Do you really think xscd was talking about *numerical* values?

    If xscd is using a definition of morality that is utterly incompatible with the definition of morality that everyone else in the conversation is using

    It isn’t. It agrees with my own. And is much better than the morally bankrupt Sam Harris idea of ‘well being of conscious creatures’. Over what timeframe Sam? Is it moral if we are all content, while ensuring the demise of our great grandchildren?

  47. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Were you dancing by your computer when Martin made his points about “supernatural causation?”

    Yes.

    ~does his happy dance~

    Overall, Martin was entirely on point. Props to Martin!
    <3 <3 <3

    Russell was largely agreeable.

    Several times the caller attempted some interesting (read: bad) shifting of the burden of proof.

    Early in the call, I found one point rather funny: At one point, Martin and Russell were talking past each other. Martin adopted the definition "supernatural: non-existent", and Russell adopted some other definition. It was just a few seconds, and then they moved on.

    The caller was funny. Russell was entirely right that the caller needs to rigorously define the words "natural" and "supernatural" before making any claims using those words. The caller seemed oblivious to this point.

    I still agree with the general argument of the caller. I use it myself. In short, if every swan I have seen is white, and I have seen a lot of swans, then it is appropriate to tentatively conclude that all swans are white. Emphasis: tentatively. This kind of inductive reasoning is simply the foundation of all scientific thought. Of course there might be a black swan, and upon discovery of a black swan one should change their mind. The reason that this kind of reasoning may seem unreasonable is that you are in possession of a bunch of background evidence, such as knowledge about the size of the planet and about the variety of life on the planet, and how many animals have varying colors, which means that a black swan is not all that far-fetched. For a hypothetical person who has seen only white swans (and with no access to a modern library, the internet, etc.), the tentative conclusion that all swans are white is reasonable, but the confidence that one has in the proposition, or equivalently the estimation of the likelihood of truth that one should have for the proposition, should be tempered by your other background knowledge that plenty of other animal species and families have wildly varying colors. This is not an indictment against the general form of reasoning of extrapolating from your personal experience to all of reality. Rather, this is just a basic fact of good reasoning that one should use all of the available information to inform your beliefs.

    So, every time we have discovered the way that something works, materialism has always won, and religion and superstition have always lost. On this basis, it is IMO proper to tentatively conclude that everything we will find in the future will be materialism, and we will never confirm the non-materialist hypotheses of religion. Further, I know of nothing in my background knowledge that might mitigate this tentative conclusion, unlike the swan example.

    Russell and Martin were IMHO too fixated on absolute certainty. Ex: When I release this hammer at a height in normal household conditions, I might be wrong, and it might hover in mid-air, or "fall" to the ceiling. However, no one is going to take issue with my colloquial claim that "hammers fall when released". Everyone should understand that this claim is made tentatively, just like basically all claims. However, the evidence we have for it is so good that we find no need to put disclaimers on it. The evidence we have for materialism and against the non-material hypotheses of religion is IMHO well past the point of disclaimers for conventional conversation. It is IMHO important to emphasize in those conversations that the conclusion is still tentative, but it also needs to be emphasized that our confidence in that conclusion is comparable to our confidence in the truth that hammers fall when released at a height. IMHO, Martin and Russell went especially far in entertaining the plausibility of the falsity of materialism. I appreciate a good discussion about keeping an open mind, but the cliche goes that don't keep your mind so open that your brain falls out.

  48. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf
    Where did I get my Kent Hovind information? Some blog around ftb probably. Not sure offhand. It’s really that hard to find this information? Surprising.

  49. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    As for morality – here’s my little bit.

    Happiness and suffering are objective descriptions about reality. They describe particular brain-states. There are objectively right and wrong answers in principle about whether someone is happy, sad, in physical pain, in emotional pain, etc., just like there are objectively right or wrong answers about the color of my chair.

    The statement “I ought to do X” – absent all moral axioms – is not falsifiable. It’s not testable. There is no experiment you can do in a lab, no observation you can make, to determine if it’s true or false. As soon as you add some starting premise, such as “I should make the world into a better place”, then you can use science to determine whether you should do X or not.

    Perhaps the answer is hard to find because the data is overwhelming and beyond precise formal complete analysis, but in principle there are still right and wrong answers.

    Perhaps there are several competing values, or components, of what it means to be “better”, and thus the answer is actually ambiguous and underspecified in some cases. However, it is important to note that in a majority of our public policy, this is not a problem, and there are right and wrong answers.

    I find that the following best expresses what I mean by morality: I will act to make the world into a better place for myself and others. If you stand in my way of making the world into a better place, I will try to persuade you, but it may become necessary to use violence against you for the betterment of others. I hope you help me in making the world into a better place for everyone. And by better, I mean in terms of happiness, safety, freedom, self determination, material wealth, and the other usual measures of human well-being. Finally, J S Mill’s Harm Principle is my most important metric, my most heavily weighted metric, in determining what is “better”.

    PS: If you think that my metrics are not sufficiently specified to be workable, then you should have similar problems with any definition of “healthy” – ex: What would you say to someone who says that “I think that vomiting uncontrollably all the time is healthy” ?

  50. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    And yea. About the morality caller. Just listening now. My reply would be:

    At its heart, objective morality is an equivocation. See: You might define the word “good” in terms of “torturing babies for fun is not good”, but then you need to demonstrate that I ought to do good things and not do bad things. You might define the word “good” in terms of “I ought to do good things and not do bad things”, but then you need to demonstrate that torturing babies for fun is bad and not good. Discussions about objective morality hide on this equivocation of words. You can define the word “good” in either way you want, but people who advocate that objective morality is even coherent rely on on both definitions, and that is equivocation.

    To put it another way, I’ll invoke the is-ought distinction and the Münchhausen trilemma. The conclusion is that there is no such thing as a moral system without some arbitrary moral precept (or set of circularly justifying moral precepts).

    To put it another way, without some starting ungrounded moral precept, there is no experiment that I can perform which will tell me whether it’s right or wrong to torture babies for fun. In this sense, morality is not a substance nor property of reality. Happiness and suffering are properties of reality, but morality is not.

    While Sam Harris has said some rather despicable things, I must still promote his particular line of thinking on this subject, which he on rare occasion makes clear. Morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures. This is a moral axiom. You already have that value. This shouldn’t scare you. Don’t think that this means morality is subjective and arbitrary and be scared. This is no more or less true than it is of science. Ex: What can you say to someone who doesn’t value using evidence to inform his beliefs? Not much. In order to do science, you also need a value, a moral, that you should use evidence to inform your beliefs. If you don’t have that value (or some functionally similar value), there’s nothing I can do or say to convince you to do science. It’s just one of the starting values that we all hold. It doesn’t mean that science will suddenly implode or stop working. It doesn’t mean that all of science is going to completely change tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that science is subjective or arbitrary in the bad and scary senses of the words. And the same for morality, even though morality is also based on some shared moral precepts, like happiness, safety, freedom, self determination, material wealth, and the other metrics of human well-being.

  51. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Sorry for so many posts. Last bit:

    Implicit in my takedown of objective morality is my pragmatism and my general positivism: If objective morality is a substance or property of our reality, but it’s not discoverable, testable, falsifiable, etc., then its existence is indistinguishable from its non-existence, and thus it’s a useless concept. In the language of the logical positivist, it’s cognitively meaningless. (I am not a logical positivist.) I’m concerned about a useable morality.

    So, you can fiat a moral precept, aka a moral axiom, aka a moral presupposition, and then you can make progress. (Or the functional equivalent, such as a set of circularly justifying moral claims.)

    Without a moral presupposition, there’s no way to make progress. Absent a moral presupposition, the is-ought distinction makes it impossible to discover any moral facts at all, even probabilistically, even tentatively.

  52. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Damn. Another post.

    @caller Ned
    Dan Dennett makes some similar points. Let me give my summary.

    Parents are not the masters of their children. Children are not slaves of their parents. Parents are the guardians of their children. Children are the wards of their parents. Society has a duty to protect its members from abuse, including protecting children from their abusive parents.

    Parents do not have the right to keep their children ignorant about the world. Children have the right to be informed about the world. Especially in a democracy, the rest of us have a positive duty to ensure that the children of the country, of the whole world, are informed about the world, in order to become good voters. However, there’s also an argument to be made that absent that concern, we still have a positive duty to ensure that children are informed about the world and not kept ignorant.

    Dan Dennett’s single significant policy proposal that he has made to date this thus: Require comprehensive comparative religion classes of all of the contemporary popular religions to all of the children of the world. Just like reading, writing, and arithmetic, there will be a religious class. It’s hard to imagine a topic of study that would be more important than religion for navigating this world. And no teaching of values. Just the uncontested facts. Teach the creeds, doctrines, histories, prohibitions. Teach the facts that certain religions have creeds that require their followers to value certain things. Teach the facts that certain religions have creeds that require their followers to abhore certain things. Teach the facts that certain religions teach certain contested historical facts, such as the uncontested fact that Christians teach the (contested) fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

    Dan Dennett goes on to say that as long as this good instructive fact-based comparative religious instruction is done for all of the children in the world in school from an early age, then the parents can also force the children to do any sort of the conventional religious teaching.

    Like Dan Dennett, I believe that the worst kinds of religion can survive only in ignorance. The evil of religion can survive only in ignorance. In the truth, we can see its defeat. What better method than giving the child both “sides” of the story? We have the truth, and we should have nothing to fear from generally honest and good intentioned parents who do standard religious indoctrination if the children also get comprehensive comparative religion classes.

    fin

  53. frankgturner says

    @ EL
    I’ve been searching and all of the info that I have found on Hovind and the lien is back dated too. What I am having a hard time finding is something dated within the past few days to provide some credibility that the information you have is current.

  54. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @frankgturner
    Hmm? Communication problem. My information is not from the last few days. His placing of the lien and the subsequent contempt of court charge happened quite a while ago. This is why he was released from jail only recently. Hovind’s contempt of court charge got him additional time in jail. Otherwise he would have been released much earlier.

  55. corwyn says

    @49:

    Morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures. This is a moral axiom. You already have that value.

    No, it’s not. No, it isn’t (or at least not one that everyone agrees on). No, I don’t.

    So much for boldly made assertions.

  56. corwyn says

    @51 EL:

    What better method than giving the child both “sides” of the story?

    “Teach the controversy?” How would we ever get religious people to agree to that… oh wait… 🙂

  57. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    I’m sorry. Did you want to give me the quick version of your position? I don’t recall it. Hopefully we can avoid another blow-up.

  58. Narf says

    @45 – corwyn

    Yes, I do; No, I don’t; respectively. Since we seem unable to agree on a definition, that is the only sensible thing to do.

    When the entire discussion is about how Christians bastardize the very concept of morality, in addition to abusing the word itself, changing to another term is freaking pointless.  I don’t care what xscd thinks about doing things that impact other people.  What I care about is that he thinks actions can have a moral basis, when they’re incapable of having an impact upon anyone else.

    Changing the verbiage eliminates the point of the discussion, when it’s a discussion about verbiage and the importance of what it means.

    It means judging the value of actions as either good, bad, or in between. I shouldn’t think that too difficult. What does moral mean if it *doesn’t* mean evaluating actions as good, bad, or in between?

    Morality is the context of the evaluation of those actions.  Specifically, my moral framework is the evaluation of the impact of those actions upon those around me.  You can’t have a consequentialist moral system without consequences, just as you can’t have morals without other people.  At most, value judgement can be a component of morality, but it is absolutely not morality itself.

    You can have positive and negative results of an action, but you can’t have right and wrong without a societal framework.  One person, alone in the universe, is just a guy doing stuff that he feels like doing.

    I am embarrassed that you made that horrendous equivocation fallacy. Do you really think xscd was talking about *numerical* values?

    That isn’t an equivocation fallacy; it’s hyperbole.  It can’t be an equivocation fallacy when we don’t have useful definitions assigned in the first place.  That’s the point.

    And I don’t grant you permission to assign embarrassment on my behalf.  If xscd would like to step up to the plate and answer my questions from comment 36, then I’ll take a stab at answering your question seriously.  Until such a time, I don’t know what the fuck he means by value judgement, and nothing in the hypothetical can have a value judgement applied to it, in any meaning of the word that has any use, except for the amoral, mathematical meaning that I made use of in my hyperbolic statement.

    An action can increase the nutritional value of your food stores, if you manage to find something to eat, but it can’t have any kind of value, as … say “values voters” (fuck, I hate that Orwellian label) would mean when they use the term.

    It isn’t. It agrees with my own. And is much better than the morally bankrupt Sam Harris idea of ‘well being of conscious creatures’. Over what timeframe Sam? Is it moral if we are all content, while ensuring the demise of our great grandchildren?

    That’s an absurd objection to Sam’s statement.  Over what time-frame?  Over all time-frames in which sapient beings exist.

    Right now.  Three years from now.  Five lifetimes after we’re dead.  All of those times.

    A system isn’t morally bankrupt because we need to weigh the benefits of actions right now with the benefits that our actions will have upon others in the future, after we’re dead.  If you want a simple moral system without any moral and ethical quandaries, you’ll have to switch off to a simplistic moral system, like divine command theory.

  59. Narf says

    @EL

    Where did I get my Kent Hovind information? Some blog around ftb probably. Not sure offhand. It’s really that hard to find this information? Surprising.

    Yeah, I tried several search strings involving variations on “Kent Hovind news” with other words that should have turned up something.  I’ve only found articles about the indictment, from a couple months ago.

  60. Narf says

    @53 – EL

    Hmm? Communication problem. My information is not from the last few days. His placing of the lien and the subsequent contempt of court charge happened quite a while ago. This is why he was released from jail only recently. Hovind’s contempt of court charge got him additional time in jail. Otherwise he would have been released much earlier.

    Is it the sort of stuff covered in this Forbes article?  You made it sound like he was going back for some real time, not just a couple more months, on contempt charges … or at least that’s what I took away from your earlier statement.

    So, he’s out now, and he isn’t going back for a few more years from now, as we’d hoped?

  61. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf.

    So, he’s out now, and he isn’t going back for a few more years from now, as we’d hoped?

    AFAIK, right. Sorry. I was covering old news.

  62. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I missed this earlier.

    If xscd is using a definition of morality that is utterly incompatible with the definition of morality that everyone else in the conversation is using

    It isn’t. It agrees with my own. And is much better than the morally bankrupt Sam Harris idea of ‘well being of conscious creatures’. Over what timeframe Sam? Is it moral if we are all content, while ensuring the demise of our great grandchildren?

    I covered this particular question. Let me copy-paste:

    Perhaps there are several competing values, or components, of what it means to be “better”, and thus the answer is actually ambiguous and underspecified in some cases. However, it is important to note that in a majority of our public policy, this is not a problem, and there are right and wrong answers.

    We want to raise happiness now, and we want to raise the happiness of those who will be in 100 years. I have not purported to answer this difficult question.

    I believe Corwyn’s “argument” is in no way a refutation of the point that morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures. I think that corwyn doesn’t understand the discussion. Corwyn’s defeater question presupposes that the other person cares about the well-being of the current generation and cares about the well-being of those grandchildren. Corwyn’s defeater question already assumes that everyone does care about the well-being of conscious creatures.

    Again, I never said that the well-being of conscious creatures describes a complete moral system. I never attempted to give a complete moral system. I do believe that a workable moral system also needs some other rules or guidelines to solve the time horizon problem, and probably another problem or two.

    For a more detailed discussion, I would generally refer interested readers to Rawls’s Veil Of Ignorance as my currently preferred solution.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance
    Even then it’s an incomplete moral system, but it does make progress on the time horizon problem IMHO, and a few other problems.

  63. Monocle Smile says

    @EL

    In short, if every swan I have seen is white, and I have seen a lot of swans, then it is appropriate to tentatively conclude that all swans are white. Emphasis: tentatively

    Correct. I don’t think that was the caller’s position, though. Of course, this could be mere epistemic paranoia due to dealing with presuppositional apologists, and fuck them twice for putting this shit in my head.

    However, no one is going to take issue with my colloquial claim that “hammers fall when released”. Everyone should understand that this claim is made tentatively, just like basically all claims

    I believe my opinion of humanity is considerably lower than yours, and perhaps this is a more serious roadblock in our past communications than I thought. I think a disturbingly large majority of people are unaware that this is merely a tentative claim like all claims; I think most people are caught up in absolute certainty even if they don’t understand epistemology. I would love to live in a world where your statements about “everyone” are true and we didn’t have to qualify these things, but unfortunately, we live in a world where people are stupid and dishonest and care more about “winning” and making a stupid point than actually having a discussion and understanding topics.

  64. frankgturner says

    @ Narf and EL
    Despite it being old news I would not have put it past him to try it again. I suspect he will try some other bullshit but that he may try to cover his tracks better so to speak or do something dishonest but not illegal.
    He is a con and cons are what he does. He might be able to change and be less of a con but dishonesty is what he has learned to survive on.

  65. frankgturner says

    @ MS #62
    We live in a world where human memory is imperfect and we often go by how things feel. We also communicate in a very inefficient way using a language that is fluid and dynamic and based on our own understanding which comes from our own personal experience which differs from person to person.
    .
    Recently on Ask an Atheist an individual who had been studying to be a minister talked about reading scripture and how he read the old testament and became disgusted with it and as he listened to more apologetics about it he became less and less secure about what he was listening too. He made one important point about scripture that I realized some time ago reading the Gospels that I have never gotten a believer to comprehend. He talked about reading the Gospels “horizontally” rather than “vertically.” The idea was that instead of reading the Gospels one at a time where your brain can forget conttadictions, you read each one chapter at a time making adjustments for chronological order. He talked about how you start to see the contradictions and how your confidence for them being based on a rational reality falls apart. They may have some factual inspiration, but you start to see how adjustments to manipulate people were done on purpose. (Richard Carrier talks about this too in some of his writings).
    .
    Furthermore he became more familiar with the idea that in those times a respect for accuracy and completeness was not a big part of the culture so much as a capacity to tell a convincing story. A lot of people don’t see that. Too many people treat the world like a JM Barrie novel, that if you believe something hard enough you can make it reality. I often think that is what we are dealing with when it comes to believers.

  66. frankgturner says

    @ MS
    Oh and as has been discussed before when it comes to claims, particularly when it comes to conclusive ones like a court verdict. EVERY claim is tentative and subject to change, even this one. Even verdicts can be altered by future evidence. I th9no that is where the average person’s understanding of the word “theory” as it is treated in science breaks down. We are opened to evidence demonstrating that any conclusion, even the most well established ones like Gravity Theory (and the “Law of Gravity”) being opened to falsifiability if evidence comes along that can demonstrate its falsehood.
    .
    That’s why I tend to think of EL’s statement about not leaving your mind so opened that your brain falls out is a deepity rather than something meaningful. As confident as I am that evolution or something damn well like it occurred along with germ theory, laws of motion, and so on and so forth, I even accept those tentatively. Even the things for which I have a ridiculously large number of deciban s of cofidence (as corwynn would put it), I am STILL open to evidence, REAL evidence, that could decrease that confidence.

  67. corwyn says

    @65 frank:

    being opened to falsifiability if evidence comes along that can demonstrate its falsehood.

    And if I may amplify, be open to evidence which merely changes the confidence level, *without* demonstrating its falsehood. Many people are too quick to dismiss evidence that doesn’t change their true/false summary, but should change their confidence value. If evidence indicates that your prior of 99.9% should actually be 99%, you *need* to do that update.

  68. corwyn says

    @57 Narf:

    Morality is the *context* of the evaluation of those actions.

    See, *this* is why we need to taboo the word. This is a completely different understanding of morality than I have. Can you explain what you mean by ‘the context of the evaluation of those actions’ and how that differs from ‘the evaluation of those actions’? I don’t get the point you are trying to make. I do think evaluating actions needs to be done within the context of those actions, but I don’t get the impression that that is what you mean here.

  69. corwyn says

    @ EL:

    I believe Corwyn’s “argument” is in no way a refutation of the point that morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures. I think that corwyn doesn’t understand the discussion.

    And you were doing so well…

    My point was not *meant* as a refutation of that point, but rather a refutation about Sam Harris’s model of morality which *uses* that phrase, with the implicit (but easily demonstrated) understanding that it only applies to currently living conscious creatures. This is why I used the qualifier that I did.

    If you like, I can show that only caring about the well being of conscious creatures will either 1) get all conscious creatures dead in short order, or 2) end up caring about the well being of all creatures. [The reason ‘conscious’ gets put in there is so that people don’t feel guilty about eating animals.]

  70. xscd says

    My own personal sense of morality is fairly simple I guess, based upon the ideas of cooperation and empathy. This seems like a kind of natural morality to me (no god needed), it seems to serve me well and I’m happy with it.

    I do think that people sometimes become overly analytical and academic or philosophical with the subject of morality, which is why I devoted some personal thought to the issue to try to reduce it to as simple a form as I could for myself, which is why I prefer the phrase “value judgement” to the word moral, because in all its forms and with all the criteria used to form those judgements by various people, that’s really what morals are: judgements about behavior (but nowhere near all or every aspect or type of behavior) in which a value (like good or evil, right or wrong or neither) is associated with a particular behavior, sometimes in a specific or particular context such as a specific set of circumstances. That seems like a good general definition or description of morality to me.

  71. Narf says

    @63 – fgt

    I suspect he will try some other bullshit but that he may try to cover his tracks better so to speak or do something dishonest but not illegal.

    Err, you’ve seen the video of one of his seminars, right?  What you describe in this sentence is pretty much all that he does.  😀

    He is a con and cons are what he does. He might be able to change and be less of a con but dishonesty is what he has learned to survive on.

    Sadly, with the lax standards of honesty that are applied to religion, in this country, I’m sure there’s plenty of space for him to be a perfectly legal fraud.  After getting caught like this, I figure he’ll probably learn to work within the system, particularly when there are so many lucrative ways to defraud people without risking prison time.

    I’m sure he still feels that he should be exempt from paying taxes, while enjoying the benefits of other people’s taxes, but he’ll probably hire a competent lawyer this time, to make sure he’s conning the system in legal ways and paying that small percentage that is required to keep him out of prison.

  72. Narf says

    @corwyn

    See, *this* is why we need to taboo the word.

    Absolutely unnecessary.  Xscd has provided a definition that I can work with.

  73. Narf says

    @xscd

    My own personal sense of morality is fairly simple I guess, based upon the ideas of cooperation and empathy. This seems like a kind of natural morality to me (no god needed), it seems to serve me well and I’m happy with it.

    Thank you.  You still haven’t gone all the way to describing the foundation of your moral framework, but at least you’ve described the background drives that cause you to set up the foundation of your morality.

    You should go the further step of defining, for yourself, the ultimate goal of your moral framework.  What are you trying to accomplish by acting morally?  Personally, this is where I get to the goal of creating the most positive and the least negative experiences for the greatest number of people.  I’m always interested to hear what other foundational considerations others might factor in.

    There are other things to factor in, of course.  Some income inequality is a good thing, for example, a detail that that Technocracy/Project Venus/Zeitgeist lunatic we had in here a couple months ago failed to acknowledge.  Most humans are competitive little bastards who want more than their neighbors have.  Allowing for that incentive to better oneself, relative to others, could be considered a moral thing, if it causes people to come up with things that improve the lot of the human race, as a whole.

    You just can’t go to the other bat-shit-crazy extreme of the anarcho-capitalist libertarians, since their proposed absolute system would create a hell-world for about 99.9% of the population.

    So, look at the words you used.  You say that your personal moral structure (leaving out the lack of an actual defined structure, for the time being) is based upon cooperation and empathy.  You see the objections we raised to your consideration of morality in the decisions of someone stranded on a deserted planet?  With whom is he cooperating?  For whom does he feel empathy, besides Wilson the volleyball?

    Sure, we’ll anthropomorphize the hell out of things around us and feel empathy for them, but surely a rational person recognizes that that’s a misfiring of those behaviors, even while engaging in them.

  74. frankgturner says

    @ Narf #70
    I have seen that it is pretty much all he does. It made some great stuff for Thunderf00t to comment on on YouTube though. That’s why I did not put it past him.
    .
    Then again given that he was keeping company with the Duggars AND that he got caught trying the lien bullcrap not long before his initial release I would not be surprised if he is doing time again in not too long. While he will probably hire a competent lawyer and find ways to con people within the system, he could still get overconfident despite eyes being glued to him.

  75. frankgturner says

    @ corwynn #66
    Unfortunately a lot of people see the world in Boolean terms, things as either right or wrong, true for false, etc (insert false dichotomy here).
    .
    Sounds like much of the issue reguarding morality here.

  76. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Monocle Smile

    I think a disturbingly large majority of people are unaware that this is merely a tentative claim like all claims; I think most people are caught up in absolute certainty even if they don’t understand epistemology.

    You’re probably right.

    @corwyn in 68
    Acceptable. I think this is an issue of needless semantics and purposefully missing Sam Harris’s point, but I agree with your position regarding what morality is.

    [The reason ‘conscious’ gets put in there is so that people don’t feel guilty about eating animals.]

    Perhaps. I think that such people are using words unreasonably. Animals are totally conscious, because humans are animals, and the other animals probably have consciousness very similar to ours. I see no reason to treat humans as special for this purpose.

  77. Narf says

    … AND that he got caught trying the lien bullcrap not long before his initial release I would not be surprised if he is doing time again in not too long.

    True.  I hadn’t incorporated his recent activities into my contemplation.  I was thinking about what a dishonest, rational person might learn from Kent’s experience; silly me.

    We might have better odds than I was thinking, for more legal fun from the Hovinds.

  78. Narf says

    Animals are totally conscious, because humans are animals, and the other animals probably have consciousness very similar to ours. I see no reason to treat humans as special for this purpose.

    Lots of animals are conscious — or at least I’m pretty sure that all mammals are, along with plenty of others outside of the order of mammals — so that factors into moral considerations, more than … say, an ant’s feelings on a subject do.

    Consciousness isn’t an absolute, though.  Some animals are of a higher order of consciousness than others, such that I could see the degree of consciousness affecting our decision about how to treat them and whether or not to eat them.  My snake is probably conscious, but that doesn’t earn him any points. He gets outsmarted by a dead rat, 2 out of every 3 times we try to feed him.

    If you want to torture insects, go for it, as long as you’re not wiping out entire species.  It might raise some red flags about you, if you’re doing it constantly, and it amuses you more than it should, but I’m fairly certain that the flies can’t experience suffering.

    Of course, I’m also a vegetarian … but not because I think that we shouldn’t be eating animals, because we’re violating their rights somehow.

  79. Atheist_Rose says

    I have just started watching this show and already I feel as if I have finally found an output for my beliefs and thoughts to be published without scrutiny. My beliefs are not always accepted where I am, especially my views on how a person can obtain good morals without believing in ‘God’ or some other absurd fairytale creature. Today, I think, that morals are pretty much all around us-growing up in a world full of technology helps us. Technology helps to teach us lessons because we make mistakes when using technology. But also: there is the other side of this spectrum. If a child is caught lying, stealing, cheating etc. ans a mother catches them-then they are punished. I can’t see why a religious person would debate atheist having morals. Being taught right from wrong is fairly simple.

  80. Ned says

    This is the caller who stated that parents should not be able to infringe on their children’s freedom of religion. Regretfully, I wasn’t able to make my full argument on the show, so will try to make amends here. Firstly, I will react to the comments above that as a non-parent, I supposedly can’t know what I’m talking about. I was expecting that kind of question and I truthfully answered that I don’t have children ( do not intend to reproduce for a variety of reasons but I would consider adopting a child or being a foster parent later in life, when I will hopefully achieved other goals, including those related to my lobbying and activism). But on the other hand, I can use my head, and I have been a kid myself and can draw from my parents’ experiences (and I do think that many of my parents’ restrictions on my freedom were completely needless or even that they made decisions that went against my interests and that I would have made the right decision myself). And I’m not a teenager complaining about parental authority, I am a 35-year-old with some life experience, and have worked with children and implemented some of my theories with them. Discounting a priori my opinion about children’s rights simply because I’m not a parent myself, while having the semblance of wisdom, is in truth a bias. You might as well say that one shouldn’t criticize a politician unless one has had experience as a politician. It’s not a real argument, just an assumption about a person. I, on the other hand, came to AEx with concrete, systematic arguments for my position (unfortunately, I ran out of time, before I could present them all). I could argue that parents themselves are biased in favor of their own rightness in the matter and that as a non-parent, I could have more objectivity than many parents. Furthermore, there are actual parents who do subscribe to what I’m advocating to a greater or lesser extent. I suggest, for example, that you look into how kids are typically raised in Norway or Sweden, it tends to be much more democratic than in most other places (and the laws of those countries have somewhat more concern for children’s rights and autonomy). Or have you heard of Dayna and Joe Martin, advocates of “unparenting”, who claim to be raising four kids with no rules whatsoever (what they are doing is more extreme than even what I would advocate, e.g. they have somehow gotten away with not providing their children with formal education and apparently don’t require their kids to help out with chores if they don’t want to – I never said kids should have only rights and no responsibilities). So what I’m saying is endorsed by some parents too. So please don’t assume that I would not actually raise a child in the way advocate if I did actually have one. If you cannot approve of my position, feel free to consider me a potentially irresponsible, unfit, just plain bad parent, but give me the benefit of the doubt that I would actually practice what I preach.

    To get to my main point, again, I never said that children should be able to make ALL of their own decisions on every matter and I deliberately didn’t want to discuss the extent to which, in general, they should be free to make their own decisions. I stated my position SOLELY on the issue of religious freedom, and yes, my position on that particular issue is that parents should not have the power to coerce their children into any religious observance, nor to forbid them to practice a religion of their choice (but see the reservation expressed below), and that regardless of the child’s age or maturity. My full argumentation for this position is as follows:

    • Freedom of religion is a human right, yet parents are allowed to arbitrarily violate that right in the case of children. I don’t think it’s less degrading to be treated like you have no freedom of religion just because you’re under 18.

    • It borders on the ludicrous to say that from birth until the age of majority, a child or young person completely lacks maturity to make any decisions for him or herself, and needs to be 100% under the control of an adult.

    • Parental powers should not be seen as a personal right but as something to be exercised in the child’s interests and should therefore exist only to the extent that they promote those interests. Of course, parents (usually) make decisions for their children because of their immaturity and with a view to “what is good for them”, but that doesn’t mean that we should see parental authority as something good in and of itself. Whenever a parent makes a decision for a child, against the will (and the potential capacities) of the child, that act has deprived the child of freedom and, to a greater or lesser extent, has probably infringed on the child’s pursuit of happiness. Therefore, if necessary, and to the extent necessary, parental authority is a necessary evil, not a necessary good, and should be limited as much as is realistically feasible.

    • With the previous point in mind, parents should enable, not deprive you of, pursuit of happiness, limited of course by what is reasonable, the law and good morals. It’s not fair that I can’t enjoy my Sunday morning playing or otherwise relaxing like my young neighbor just because my parents happen to believe in a dogma that mandates you go to church every Sunday. And that’s not the most extreme example. The list of restrictions to my rights and freedoms that parents may impose due to their religion is endless, from making me attend abstain from certain foods to having my penis cut as a baby, to having to adhere to a bizarre dress code (e.g. Muslim hijab, Sikh turban+uncut hair and beard, Amish plain 19th-century-style clothes), to not being allowed to go trick-or-treating, to not being allowed to listen to some kinds of music, or any music at all, to having to spend hours a week at a place of worship, etc etc.

    • If we’re going to be objective, religion seems to be one of the last things that parents should be able to impose on you. As I said on the show, there are rules and restrictions relating to a child’s welfare that can be justified with an objective benefit to the child’s health, safety, welfare etc (brushing your teeth and playing in the street have already been mentioned). But religion is based on believing dogmas, not on factual things, and and completely depends on what religious community you belong to. What a Sikh thinks is good for you, is very different from what a Catholic or Orthodox person does, or what an Evangelical does, or what a Muslim does. If you’re going to be imposing restrictions on someone’s freedom, you had better have DEMONSTRABLE reasons to justify it, not merely your belief or adherence to a certain community.

    • Finally, many people have been seriously psychologically harmed by having religion imposed on them through things like their life experiences being limited, irrational terror being instilled in them etc. Some have had their ability to function in normal society stunted due to their parents imposing an extreme, limiting lifestyle on them (e.g. the Amish).

    In light of the above, I would consider forcing children to practice a religion at any age to be a human rights violation (again, I was talking only about coercion, and not necessarily teaching a child religion) and it should not be legal. What I can accept, at most, is parents having the power to prevent children from engaging in SPECIFIC religious PRACTICES that there are reasonable and probable reasons to consider harmful from an OBJECTIVE point of view, e.g. snake handling, participating in the activities of a dangerous cult, starving oneself. Also, I do believe that parents should have the responsibility, and therefore the power, to impose public morality. So if a child practices a religion that would involve infringing on the rights of others, e.g. to steal or destroy property, to physically harm others, parents SHOULD stop their children from doing such activities. But no one should have the power to chastise a child who simply refuses to pray to their god, who insists on praying to another god, who refuses to wear hijab, a turban, whatever, who doesn’t want to be confirmed in the Catholic Church, etc.

    I am fully aware that these ideas are radical and go against common wisdom. But then again, until recently, many people would probably have had an equally hostile response to the suggestion that there is no god, or that gays are normal humans. If I had told someone 200 years ago that women should have equal rights to men, that blacks have as much human value as whites, or that the Bible is not all literally true, they would likely have considered my ideas ridiculous. So may I end this post by inviting the reader to leave aside their preconceived notions about children and consider an alternative perspective? It doesn’t hurt to challenge our established beliefs from time to time, otherwise there is no progress. Again, I never said that parents should have absolutely no control over their children, merely that there should be a certain degree of emancipation, which should include the right not to have one’s religious freedom respected as one of those rights. IMO, if it’s really necessary to give parents quasi-dictatorial power over their children (and clearly I don’t think it is), then by bringing a child into the world, you are doing him or her a disservice and consequently, people should stop having kids.

  81. corwyn says

    @84 Ned:

    Had to comment on this:

    to having to adhere to a bizarre dress code

    Which if the children I have been around recently are any indication, wearing clothes at all is a bizarre dress code. I will concede they have a point, but I am not sure society is ready for it.

    ***
    I agree with a lot of your argument. But some things to think about. Can you drag your kids unwilling to the store? When do you have to inform them that church is no longer required of them? Is there any way at all to enforce such a law? Or is this just hypothetical (or for cases of violent clashes)?

  82. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Ned
    If you haven’t, I invite you to read post 54 here, where I talked about your call.

  83. Ned says

    @corwyn

    I think we can make a practical distinction between “no clothes” and a restrictive religious dress code.

    Your question about enforcement (which Russell also asked, I was hesitant to go there before presenting my whole thesis and reasons why) is a logical one. My answer is that no, it would not be just hypothetical. The rights I would give children would be enforceable by law. The simple answer as to how they would be enforced would be: more or less the same way that a wife’s right not to be controlled or beaten by her husband (which in the past she did not have) is enforced today. Depending on what exactly the parents did (and the degree of severity of what they did), consequences could range from a simple talking-to with the child welfare authorities, to the child getting a court injunction, to criminal charges in more serious cases of abuse. Another thing, though: the law would be made very clear to parents, and so if you didn’t want any of these consequences to happen, you simply wouldn’t do it, you would respect your child’s rights whether you agreed with them or not, and nothing would happen (and of course, you don’t have to have kids, so you could always be child-free, unless you were already a parent). Case in point: in Scandinavia today where, as I already said, there is a significantly greater feel for children’s rights than in most other places, most people are so aware that their kids have rights, that they simply don’t corporally punish or otherwise harshly treat them. In cases where some kind of ill treatment is suspected, the authorities don’t, on the whole, take children away from parents more often than in other places. Usually, as elsewhere, this is a last resort; typically, they will send a social worker to the family, who will have a nice talk with the parents, inform them of the child’s rights, and offer help with raising the child if necessary. But often this is not necessary, as people are simply used to respecting their children’s rights.

    @EnlightenmentLiberal

    Yes, I have read it. AFAIK your post talks more about religious indoctrination than religious freedom. My comment on the proposal you gave is, I’m not against teaching kids in school about the facts of what each religion believes and teaches in the way that you described (I would just not call the class a “religion class”; so as to be more tactful and diplomatic, I would present the lessons as “study units” in social studies, history or civics classes). If concurrently, as you said, parents tried to teach their children their religious beliefs, that would not be illegal; what would be illegal is for parents to force their children to adhere to those religious beliefs or to chastise them for telling their parents they do not agree with the parents’ beliefs.

  84. Monocle Smile says

    The rights I would give children would be enforceable by law. The simple answer as to how they would be enforced would be: more or less the same way that a wife’s right not to be controlled or beaten by her husband (which in the past she did not have) is enforced today

    Whut? A wife is a legal adult and has the capacity to inform authorities. A child does not. Also, this is apples and oranges, as far as I’m concerned; bringing up abuse is a waste of time because we already agree on that front and there are already systems in place.

    If concurrently, as you said, parents tried to teach their children their religious beliefs, that would not be illegal; what would be illegal is for parents to force their children to adhere to those religious beliefs or to chastise them for telling their parents they do not agree with the parents’ beliefs

    Okay, that last part is a absolutely extreme curbing of free speech that I can’t and won’t ever support.

  85. corwyn says

    @87 Ned:

    I think we can make a practical distinction between “no clothes” and a restrictive religious dress code.

    And yet you don’t. What EXACTLY is that distinction? It is clear that they are both religiously motivated. The only distinction I see is “their dress code is evil, while mine is good.” which is clearly just bias in action.

  86. corwyn says

    @87 Ned:

    My answer is that no, it would not be just hypothetical. The rights I would give children would be enforceable by law. The simple answer as to how they would be enforced would be: more or less the same way that a wife’s right not to be controlled or beaten by her husband (which in the past she did not have) is enforced today.

    So that would be the ‘violent cases’ that I was talking about. And would be as near to ‘not enforced’ as it gets. If a wife feels she is being controlled by her husband, but not being beaten, and she doesn’t want a divorce, would the police be able to do *anything*? I don’t think so. That is the (roughly) analogous situation.

  87. Narf says

    @Ned
    Ned, you’re having the same sort of issues as Scott is having over in the comment thread for episode #926. Check out comment 98 in that thread.  The metaphors in your argument just aren’t apt.

    You say your thesis is a logical one.  But in the chain of logic: if A then B, if B then C: thus A then C; it falls apart if A and B are not even close to comparable.

  88. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Ned
    I don’t think I have anything more to say. It’s already been said. I need something more specific from you in terms of exactly what is prohibited, what sort of penalties there are for violations, what sort of remedies there are for violations, etc. I don’t think you’ve thought this through too carefully yet.

  89. Narf says

    @EL
    That’s the other problem, isn’t it?  Who gets to decide exactly what’s prohibited?  Considering that the specifications would be set by the legislatures currently in control of the government, what do you propose that wouldn’t immediately turn around and bite us in the ass, once the people in power finished setting the specifics, Ned?

  90. frankgturner says

    @ Ned
    To some degree I think I comprehend a lot of where you are coming from :/ looking at my own childhood experiences when it comes to religion. To some degree my parents where dogmatic and seem to have come to a lot of the conclusions that they did based on faith and not on hard evidence. From my observation, religion provided a coping mechanism for them that they thought would work on their children and had a lot to do with their irrationality and emotional impulses. (I think their parents were more driven to religion through cultural influence and never really thought about why they do it). Children are driven by immediate desires and a lot of emotion and impulses which are often irrational and based on personal experience and not necessarily fact or broader experiences. So indoctrination may be easy for individuals, like children, looking for an emotional coping mechanism.
    .
    Finding ways to emotional cope that do not include irrational principles and non factual ideas (e.g.: faith) sounds like an excellent idea rather than, as you say, an arbitrary violation of free speech and freedom of thought that parents are basically allowed to engage in, up to a point, with their children due to their children’s own lack of maturity and tendency to engage in irrational activity and emotional impulses. Suppossedly, maturity means not engaging in immediate emotional impulses and being more willing to consider facts before acting. However, plenty of adults, parents included, obviously have not reached that level of maturity. Some question as to whether said parents should be allowed to raise children given their own lack of capacity to be rational is in order.
    .
    The difficulty is, with so many parents and adults who lack in maturity and so much emotional bias, including your own (and mine and everyone in here) who is to say that there could be a fact based mature way of handling children that could be regulated from an institution that itself is heavily biased and prone to irrational action (like our government)?
    .
    As a child I did start to think rationally and ask a lot of questions about scripture as what I read did not make sense when I thought about it. I was raised :-/ Catholic parents who themselves did not believe in a literal interpretation of scripture but often acted like they did. When I asked about things like Adam and Eve they dodged or made excuses that sounded like apologists that made me doubt even more. When I asked about why they did this I was told that it was because I was a child and did not have the maturity to comprehend the reality. I point out that if I was mature enough to be asking questions I was mature enough to understand, so I think they were full of shot or just not that inquisitive (given the way my folks think, the later seems more likely).
    .
    The difficulty they seemed to have is that I was a child for so long (as were they) that they continued to think of me as not having the maturity to comprehend complex ideas like metaphor. That continues to some degree even today and I am older than you. And based on what I have read of psychology, that is very common. We are children for so long that our parents often continue to think of their children as immature and irrational long into our adulthood.
    .
    And some of those parents are right, some of their children often are immature and irrational long into adulthood, including the parents. It is a nice idea to try to implement a protocol of rational parenting, but how is that to be done when the parent has the potential to be irrational?
    .
    I heard a stand up comedian even point out that HE did not think of himself as an adult when he had kids. He walked in to his kids and said, “you guys are gonna be in big trouble when Dad sees what you did to the bathroom.” His son and daughter looked at him confused and said, “him…Dad?” It suddenly hit him that HE was Dad, the adult. He then started to chastise them. So we are children for so long that sometimes even WE forget that we are adults.
    .
    I think some countries have had the luck of having large numbers of parents who grew up behaving rationally and logically. We didn’t. We have parents who are like the comedian I mentioned who themselves didnl not really mature and “grow up” so to speak.

  91. Martin Zeichner says

    A couple of thoughts (I didn’t read all of the comments so forgive me if I’m being redundant):

    .

    ISTM that the word ‘objective’ has shifted its meaning. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we are witnessing the process of the shift of its meaning. Most people would acknowledge the definition of the word as the truth value of a proposition irrespective of subjective points of view. But in discussions such as these the word ‘objective’ has come to be an expression of emphasis, sort of like the way that the word ‘literally’ has taken the role of an expression of emphasis leaving behind its original meaning. The word ‘very’ went in and out of fashion in a similar way. One difference might be that the word ‘objective’ has been co-opted by religious people and now has connotations of intimidation, as in “God has dictated objective morality and who are you to say otherwise?” (Objective=good, subjective=bad.) Pure divine command.
    .

    Also, as scientific investigation of the natural world has progressed it has been amazingly successful at coming up propositions whose truth value seems to be independent of subjective points of view; that are ‘objectively’ true or false or somehow qualifiedly true or false (using tools such as probability and error bars in measurements). Some religious people seem to want to extend this concept, inappropriately IMO, into the realm of morality by piggybacking on their existing scriptures and scientific investigation’s success and claiming without reasonable evidence that their god represents objectivity (a bit of the storytelling device of personification). While secular scientists are developing tools in a wide variety of fields to address questions of morality that have the potential of generating answers that might be objectively true or false many religious people seem to be satisfied with claiming authority on behalf of their god. In this, as in most of science, what’s important is asking the right questions and not being satisfied with the easy answers.

  92. BillBo says

    When I was a child I tried various ways to get out of going to church. Was I just being rebellious, or was I subconsciously trying to avoid the brainwashing? Does it matter why? The fact is that religion is mainly propagated by parents passing their beliefs to their children. In 20 years of going to church I only knew one guy who had atheist parents and had converted. And he mainly seemed to have done it for a girl.

    But look at it from the parent’s point of view. Parents do not want only their genetic material propagated to the future but also their beliefs and values. Mortal beings are just trying to push as much of themselves forward as possible both physical in the genes and mental in the way of thinking. Have you ever known a parent not to be happy and proud when a child behaves exactly like them?

    So it comes down to who’s rights overrule the others. Can the child who’s brain isn’t even totally developed and has little experience be trusted to make good decisions about what to learn and believe? It seems we have to just let parents do what they want even if it means they teach the child some crazy made-up shit. Unless we can get society to agree that teaching religion to your children is child abuse.

  93. Narf says

    @BillBo
    On your point in that last sentence, yeah, good luck with that.  I completely agree with what I think was your point there, that it’s just not happening, right now or in the near future.

    Any time I get someone like Ned, what I want to know first is “Is there any way you could word your prohibition which would be constitutional?”  We do have a first amendment to our constitution, after all.

    Second, if you could word it in such a way that was constitutional, do you think you could word it in such a way that it wouldn’t immediately turn around and bite us in the ass?  We’re in the minority here.  If your proposed regulations are going to be used to persecute anyone, it’s going to be us and probably the Muslims.  Thank you, but I don’t want to look like as much of an asshole as the people with the courthouse religious monuments who say that it’s open to anyone, as long as it’s a religion … only to have it blow up in their faces when the Church of Satan shows up with their statue.

    Third, seeing how much it would suck for us to get persecuted by something like this now, as the minority, are you really such a sociopath that you think it would be great fun to wield it against the minority, if we became the majority?

  94. etpro says

    YouTube Volume Almost Inaudible
    I don’t think it’s YouTube or my equipment because the volume on other channels and individual videos is fine. But recent episodes of The Atheist Experience have been getting harder and harder to hear. I have my headphones and the YouTube volume control turned all the way up and still can’t even make out what’s being said when my air conditioner kicks on. Since there is a control built into YouTube that will let others quiet it down if it comes through too loud for them, could you crank it up a few deciles in future videos?

    Other than that one complaint, I love the show and thank the entire staff and Atheist Community of Austin for all that you guys do to spread reason and rationality.

    Jim Hollomon

  95. Narf says

    YouTube Volume Almost Inaudible

    I always listen to the podcasts, so I haven’t noticed on previous shows.  I just checked this one, though.  I had to turn my surround sound system up about 25 dB to get a comparable volume to that of other YouTube videos.

    So, yeah, it isn’t your equipment.  You should e-mail the show at tv@atheist-community.org.  The people from the show pay some attention to these comment sections, but this is an older episode.

  96. Ned says

    @Monocle Smile – First of all, in my sight I am not comparing apples and oranges – as I already said, my entire premise is that I believe children should be given more of the rights that adults today possess and children lack, so the wife being a legal adult is irrelevant to me. On top of that, the way you phrased it, you are actually wrong – generally speaking, you don’t have to be a legal adult to report crimes, including violence or abuse to the police.

    Second of all, I don’t see how what I wrote is a restriction on freedom of speech. One more time: I am not dealing with the mere possibility of indoctrinating children here. I already said that I would not forbid parents to teach their children religion. That is freedom of speech. What I said was that I would forbid parents to force their children to follow their religion and – maybe this is what you didn’t understand – part of that would be that parents would have to respect the child’s freedom of speech – if the child disagreed with the parents about religious beliefs, the parents couldn’t punish them for it. I.E. it would be illegal to punish your child for coming out as an atheist, for example. But I never said that I would forbid parents to tell their children what they believe. Freedom of speech is the right to state your opinion. It does not include the right to forbid someone else from disagreeing with you or coerce their actions.

    @corwyn – What you raise is a valid point – I think what you’re saying is, if two people live in the same home, can the police protect one of them from the other if the first one insists on living together? I think this is a question that would be better answered elsewhere, as the answer is really not much different whether you’re a wife or a child. I will briefly surmise – yes, within the powers that the police have today, the safety of the first can probably not be guaranteed by criminal law,while they live with the second. On the other hand, there is always the threat of criminal sanctions and I’m sure that that keeps some people who would otherwise abuse their wife from doing so. It would be the same in the case of at least some parents. How effective the rule would ultimately be in enforcing the child’s rights is an open question, but as a minimum, whatever rules there would be, they would theoretically be in place. For some people, the mere existence of a rule is enough to keep them in check.

    @EnlightmentLiberal – I have thought through very carefully what would be prohibited and I have already stated it quite clearly (or rather, I have clearly stated that all control of a purely religious nature of children by parents against the child’s will would be prohibited. I very deliberately restricted myself to this issue, to discuss my entire theory of what rights children should have would both take far, far too long and would IMO be off topic here, and I have deliberately refused to do so from the beginning). As for what sanctions and enforcement mechanisms there would be, I have thought that through too, but 1) I am willing to consider different options for how to do that and different degrees of doing that, depending on the situation and 2) this is one of the finer points of my theory that I believe we can perfect once we get closer to implementation. I don’t see why I have to have all the answers right away. But to tentatively answer your question, I think that criminal law would be mainly used to enforce rules that already apply to adults to give children equal protection. For example, corporal punishment would be treated as common assault (a misdemeanor which usually carries as the penalty anything ranging from a warning to a fine) equally in the case of application by a parent on a child as if it had been applied to an adult – this is not my invention but a real-time example from how the law is applied in some of the many countries that have outlawed corporal punishment of children by parents. General attempts by parents to control their children in those situations where the law gives the child the right to make their own decisions would likely be dealt with – at the child’s request – in the first instance by a nice talking-to by the child welfare authorities politely informing the parents of the child’s rights, and if necessary, again at the child’s request or in some instances at the request of the child welfare authorities, by an injunction from the court (which the parents would be bound to respect because contempt of court is a punishable offense). But as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Just like the average Joe is fully informed today that if he is caught stealing, he will be charged and will be punished, so society at large would be informed of what rights children have, and most people, sooner or later, would probably not think to overtly infringe on those rights.

    @Narf – First of all, I don’t see from the analogies you bring up anything illogical about my comparisons. Please enlighten me by being more explicit.

    Second of all, who decides what rights children would get? Well, whoever decides, and however arbitrary that might be (which is what you seem to be implying), that’s not a reason to keep children under parental dictatorship. Someone would just have to decide. Simply put, it would be the elected representatives of the people, due to lobbying from people like me. There would certainly be some system to it (again, I believe I have a worked-out system about it, but don’t wish to expound on my entire theory here), it would not be completely arbitrary – but a guiding premise would be what I’ve already said – control of children by adults, if necessary, is a necessary evil, not a necessary good, and therefore in the interest of the child’s liberty and pursuit of happiness should be reduced to the minimum necessary (if the freedom given children were found to be excessive, the law could always be changed again to rein in those freedoms, btw). The intent would not be to persecute anyone or “bite anyone in the ass”, any more than men were persecuted when women were given equal rights, or whites were persecuted when blacks were given equal rights, merely to emancipate, as far as possible, another group of people. Whatever rights were given youth, once they got them, adults would have no choice but to suck it up, so to speak, or alternatively, to remain childless.

    As for your concern about the First Amendment and it being constitutional, I imagine you are referring to the Free Exercise Clause, I.E. to the freedom of religion clause. To that I would answer that I don’t believe my proposal would be unconstitutional, because no right, not even a constitutional right, is absolute. It ends where other people’s rights begin. Your country’s Supreme Court asserted this in a decision where it said that if people were allowed to justify this or that illegal activity by quoting freedom of religion, they would become “a law unto themselves.” Simple example: I can’t beat my wife and claim my religion mandates wife beating. The law wouldn’t give a rat’s ass. It would still prosecute me for assault. Therefore, I would surmise that it would be wrong to consider as unconstitutional, for example, a law prohibiting parents from circumcising their non-consenting baby son for religious reasons. It would be unconstitutional to prohibit the father from having HIMSELF circumcised, but not to prohibit him from circumcising his non-consenting son. And if my interpretation were wrong, then I would say that the First Amendment would need to be modified with more egalitarian human rights legislation.

  97. Monocle Smile says

    @Ned

    if the child disagreed with the parents about religious beliefs, the parents couldn’t punish them for it. I.E. it would be illegal to punish your child for coming out as an atheist, for example. But I never said that I would forbid parents to tell their children what they believe. Freedom of speech is the right to state your opinion. It does not include the right to forbid someone else from disagreeing with you or coerce their actions

    1) This is only true in public spaces and only refers to punishment by the government. For instance, I have every legal right to boot someone out of my house if I don’t like something they said.
    2) I can’t for the life of me see how you fail to spot the obvious slippery slopes here.

  98. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    As for what sanctions and enforcement mechanisms there would be, I have thought that through too,
    […]
    2) this is one of the finer points of my theory that I believe we can perfect once we get closer to implementation.

    That’s not a finer point to be hammered out later. That must be part of the basic package.

    I have clearly stated that all control of a purely religious nature of children by parents against the child’s will would be prohibited.

    Sorry, not cutting it for me.

    I need some concrete examples of things near the line which you want to be allowed, and things near the line that you want to be disallowed.

    Suppose the parents want to go to (Christian) church services on Sunday. Suppose the child declares that they do not want to go, and suppose the child is too young to legally be left alone at home. Are the parents obliged to hire a babysitter or skip church services?

    Suppose the parents have the religious belief that blasphemy is not ok, and the child blasphemes by declaring themselves to be an atheist and that Jesus was not a magic man. If the parents inflict otherwise-reasonable punishment on the child, is the behavior of the parents legally punishable? What about parents punishing the child for mere vulgarity, cuss words, swearing?

    Where would you draw the line between indoctrination of the child and “teaching of religion”? I have absolutely no idea where you think the line is. I think it’s rather naive to think that there is legally enforceable difference, especially for young children.

    PS:

    But to tentatively answer your question, I think that criminal law would be mainly used to enforce rules that already apply to adults to give children equal protection. For example, corporal punishment would be treated as common assault (a misdemeanor which usually carries as the penalty anything ranging from a warning to a fine) equally in the case of application by a parent on a child as if it had been applied to an adult – this is not my invention but a real-time example from how the law is applied in some of the many countries that have outlawed corporal punishment of children by parents.

    For the record, this standard as stated is ridiculous. Oftentimes, parents need to physically
    restrain their children. I’m not talking about conventional corporeal punishment, but mere physical
    restraining of small children, say around 5, maybe around 10. If some adult did that to me, that would be assault and battery, and perhaps kidnapping. Parents do that to their children all of the time. This is a reasonable and normal state of affairs. By your standard, more or less all parents should be criminally prosecuted for assault, battery, and kidnapping, which is obscenely ridiculous.

    I understand that you think corporeal punishment is bad, and I’m not objecting to that here. However, your standard as stated does a lot more than disallow conventional notions of corporeal punishment.

    Or do you really mean to embrace the ridiculous position that a parent cannot pick up and restrain a 5 year old who is throwing a temper-tantrum? Or a child who is trying to sneak out of the house? Or a child who is doing a variety of other things that would be perfectly legal and reasonable for me as an adult to do?

    I’m sorry. I think I have to flat-out reject one of your basic premises. It seems that you have a basic premise that the child should have the exact same right of self determination as an adult. I have to flat-out reject that premise as 1- unworkable, and 2- flatly ridiculous, and 3- positively harmful to the child. Children must be given noticeably and significantly less rights of self determination. A child does not know what is best for themself.

    There is no magic day when a child changes to an adult and suddenly gains the moral right of self determination. However, it’s equally ridiculous to plainly state that all children should have the same right of self determination as you do.

    PPS:

    I believe I have a worked-out system about it, but don’t wish to expound on my entire theory here

    Then what the fuck are you doing here? It seems that you found a good nest of skeptics, and we’re going to object to your ideas because they seem ridiculous. If you want to make progress with us, you’re going to need to go into some more details, like some concrete examples near the boundary of what should be allowed, and some concrete examples near the boundary of what should not be allowed. At a minimum, this is what we need.

  99. Narf says

    @Ned

    First of all, I don’t see from the analogies you bring up anything illogical about my comparisons. Please enlighten me by being more explicit.

    Everyone else already brought up plenty of issues with what you said.  I don’t feel like being redundant.

    Simply put, it would be the elected representatives of the people, due to lobbying from people like me.

    And you don’t see the problem here?  Have you taken a look at Congress lately?  Do you really want to hand those nut-jobs an idea like this and tell them to sort out what we should and shouldn’t be allowed to make our children do?

    And as for “lobbying from people like you” … are you actively trying to dissuade us from supporting your idea?  You expect us to be thrilled by the idea of putting people who clearly know fuck-all about children in charge of the decision-making process?  We already have too many anti-science Republicans on the House Science Committee.  Let’s not make it worse.

    … control of children by adults, if necessary, is a necessary evil, not a necessary good, and therefore in the interest of the child’s liberty and pursuit of happiness should be reduced to the minimum necessary (if the freedom given children were found to be excessive, the law could always be changed again to rein in those freedoms, btw).

    This is the sort of comment that makes us give you a blank look and ask if you have children.  You clearly have no experience dealing with children, if you think this is a good principle.

    I bring up the first amendment because I see what you’re doing here.  You’re presenting this as an argument for children’s rights, but what you’re actually doing is trying to find a legal avenue of attack against religion.

    It’s sort of like what the Christians did with gay rights and gay marriage.  They have all of these supposedly secular arguments against gay marriage, but they’re all bullshit.  Gay marriage should have been decided on first amendment grounds, as well as fourteenth amendment grounds, since the only arguments against it that aren’t facades are religious.

    I’m not saying that you’re a bigot, but you’re using the same tactic here.  You’re disguising the true nature of your position and your true goals.  You’re trying to prevent Christians from brainwashing their children into their religion, since without the childhood indoctrination, a much smaller percentage will be religious, later in life.  The problem is that the Christians will call it education, and the same tactic you’re using can be turned around and used to attack us teaching our children critical thinking.  Let’s not play that game with them.

    … any more than men were persecuted when women were given equal rights, or whites were persecuted when blacks were given equal rights, merely to emancipate, as far as possible, another group of people.

    Did you really just compare women and African-Americans to intellectually and emotionally immature children?

    Goodnight folks!

  100. corwyn says

    @102 Ned:

    You are conflating ‘abuse’ with ‘control’. Go re-read my question.

    But that aside, here is a question. What percentage of child abuse (actual physical abuse) cases are instigated by a child contacting any authority? This is something children could be expected to know to object to. I suspect the number is vanishingly small (which is why we have all these mandatory abuse reporting laws). How much smaller would it be for ‘forcing to go to church’? So, the idea that children would rat out their parents for making them go to church is just ludicrous. This has nothing to do with ‘a legal right to call the police’.

  101. Ned says

    OK, let’s clarify a few more points here:

    @103 Monocle Smile:

    I am not talking necessarily about how things are but about how I think things should be. You may be right that generally, the constitutional right to freedom of speech is taken as the right to be free from persecution by the government, all I’m saying is that that right, whether constitutional or not (I didn’t mean to bring constitutional law into the equation), should also be extended to children vis-a-vis their parents, I.E. parents should not have the power to punish children for expressing an opinion contrary to theirs. Yes, you can kick a stranger out of your house for expressing a view contrary to yours, or for any other reason, or for no reason other than that you want to, but a child is not a houseguest but a legitimate dependent, so I wouldn’t accept that as an analogy. I think you should not have the right to chastise your child merely for disagreeing with your point of view at home (BTW, in general at law, you do, for example, have to respect your spouse’s freedom of speech; generally, under the concept of community property, you cannot kick your spouse out of the matrimonial home, for disagreeing with you or any other reason, even if the house is just in your name, without a court order, which would probably not be given without a much more serious reason, likewise, you may not directly punish your spouse, i.e. by beating them, taking away their property, etc even if they live with you in a house registered only in your name. So in that sense, freedom of speech applies between private individuals at home too).

    @104 EnlightenmentLiberal:

    You bring up several points and please let me deal with this one first of all and once and for all: “Where would you draw the line between indoctrination of the child and “teaching of religion”?” To me, indoctrination and teaching of religion are really part of the same, and I have already stated this above: this is NOT the topic that I am dealing with. For the last time, I never said that parents should be forbidden to merely TEACH (“attempt to indoctrinate”) their children. I have no plans to attempt to stop parents from teaching religion. All I came to say was that children should be allowed to reject living according to the rules of that religion (and that children should be taught secular science etc at school even if it runs contrary to what their parents taught them at home). I never said parents should be restricted in attempting to indoctrinate their children, so please, let’s not bring this point up again.

    Also, please let me clarify what I meant regarding applying criminal laws about assault and battery equally to children as to adults. I didn’t mean it quite as broadly as you took it (I see where the confusion came from). My example would apply to corporal punishment (as it already does in the growing number of countries that have made it illegal) and also to, for example, circumcision of non-consenting infants/children for reasons other than medical necessity, or for example, to modifying a child’s body without their consent for purely aesthetic reasons (I mainly mean things like piercing a baby’s ears). Rest assured that it would NOT apply to things like restraining an out-of-control child for their safety or the safety of people of others, or to the other situations that you mentioned. Again, I DON’T propagate giving children ALL the rights of self-determination that adults have, and this would be a good example of where I would draw the line. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Regarding your point about how the child’s rights would be enforced, I agree with you that we would need to work that out completely before the laws granting the child those rights were passed, but please don’t expect me to provide an absolute, final answer in this conversation. I think I provided enough initial suggestions – the idea is still a fairly new one and a long way away from being made into law, and I myself would be willing at this point to consider various alternatives and suggestions as to how the law would be enforced. Why don’t you suggest some ideas of your own?

    Regarding your question of whether religious parents would be allowed to take a child who is too young to be left at home alone to church against the child’s will, that’s a good question and I would consider two alternatives, and don’t have a position on one or the other yet. Either 1) the parents would indeed have to hire or otherwise provide for a babysitter for the child when they go to church or 2) the parents could compel the child to come to church with them (but not until they’re 18, only until they’re old enough to be left home alone), but they couldn’t force the child to participate in the service, to pray, to wear Sunday best, to take communion etc. The church might de facto have to have something like a play area in the back where children could go and enjoy their Sunday morning while their parents participate in church.

    As for your question about whether parents could punish their children for blasphemous comments, I’d say I implicitly answered this in my earlier comments, but I will make it crystal clear here: NO, your parents could not punish you merely for making a comment they find blasphemous. If you said to your parents “I don’t think Jesus is the magic man” or “I hate Jesus”, they could argue against your opinion, but they couldn’t punish you for it. Now, I have already said that parents would have the power (and the duty) to enforce public morality, so if you were being particularly rude or disrespectful of others’ rights (e.g. you tried to harass your parents, another family member, or a guest, while praying for themselves, or if you defaced your parents’ bible, or said something to them like “fuck you, you Christians”, they would be allowed to discipline you, but not if you merely made a negative comment about the beliefs they were trying to inculcate with you (as for your example of swearing and vulgarity, that would depend on the context in which the child swore. I will try to explain the more general principle that all these rules would depend on in a later post).

    Finally, regarding your question on what I am doing here if I don’t wish to expound on my whole theory on what rights children should have, it’s not that I’m afraid of debating with you, it’s that there are perfectly practical reasons for my decision to limit my discussion to the issue of freedom of religion for children, namely: 1) This is a VERY broad topic. Defending all my positions on children’s rights would take a big book or several hours of lectures. Just look at how much space this one thesis (that parents should have to respect their children’s freedom of religion) has taken up. 2) The Atheist Experience is a show about atheism and religion. I would consider limiting myself to the freedom of religion issue to be “staying on topic”. 3) The freedom of religion aspect of my children’s rights theory is one that I have as a fixed star, I.E. a firmer position. In the case of certain other parts of my theory, I would be more willing to consider different degrees of emancipation than this particular one. HOWEVER: if you want, I can summarize my opinions about the extent to which I think children should be emancipate from parental control more broadly, but in a later post.

    @105 Narf:

    Yes, that’s the way it works in a representative democracy, like it or not, the elected representatives of the people, whatever you may think of them, are the ones who make the final decisions on what rights you have. All you can do is elect them and lobby with them. No system is perfect, nor do I think representatives’ imperfections are an excuse for letting individual parents make all decisions for their children and not petitioning the legislative to give their children more autonomy. But this is a point that I will not waste further time on debating, I’ll get to some of your other points:

    In my opinion, your claim that my view of parental authority is at best a necessary evil comes from my not being a parent myself is groundless and a bias. Again, I gave reasons why it’s a necessary evil (even if it may have a benefit to the child’s welfare, that still doesn’t change the fact that it routinely impedes the child’s liberty and pursuit of happiness). Why should a parent somehow magically not be able to see things that way. Again, I will point out Dayna and Joe Martin, actual parents of like 4 children, who think parental authority is an UNnecessary evil. BTW, my best friend, Pavel, has raised two children to adulthood. He is very sympathetic to my fight for children’s rights and while we don’t see eye to eye on every single point, he has directly encouraged me in it. He (and in one other case, two other parents) has countersigned letters that I have sent to Czech and German government offices criticizing laws that IMO give parents too much power over their parents. And when I told him I was going to call the AEx to state my opinion that parents should not be able to force religion on their children, he immediately and categorically agreed with me!

    And yes, I am comparing immature children to adult women and African Americans, but I think you don’t understand my point there. My point, again, is not that children should have absolutely all the rights to self-determination as adults, merely that, to a greater or lesser extent, they should have more of it. I mentioned adult women and blacks in the sense that, just like in the past, it was considered ludicrous by society at large, today society is just as hard-headed when anyone suggests even slightly increasing the rights of youth. My point was that you should be open to re-examining even long-held, seemingly logical theses.

    @107 corwyn I won’t necessarily disagree or agree with the points you bring up. I’ll leave it as food for thought.

  102. Ned says

    @105 Narf:

    Almost forgot to make this very important point: I flat-out reject your allegation that I am pushing an anti-religion agenda hidden under the guise of more rights for children. No, no, and no. I am solely promoting the idea that there is no good grounds for giving parents the power to force a religious practice on their children or (except in objective cases of risk to the child’s welfare, as delineated above), prohibit the free exercise thereof. The proof is in the pudding: I recall telling Russell in my initial call that it would also be illegal for an atheist to prohibit their child from worshiping. As I already said, I would not prohibit parents from merely attempting to indoctrinate their children. I have already made this distinction, so you are wrong. There is no hidden anti-religion agenda here, merely an agenda to extend the existing freedom of religion laws to children in the family. And that is that.

  103. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To me, indoctrination and teaching of religion are really part of the same, and I have already stated this above: this is NOT the topic that I am dealing with. For the last time, I never said that parents should be forbidden to merely TEACH (“attempt to indoctrinate”) their children.

    My apologies if I missed that earlier. Understood.

    My example would apply to corporal punishment (as it already does in the growing number of countries that have made it illegal) and also to, for example, circumcision of non-consenting infants/children for reasons other than medical necessity, or for example, to modifying a child’s body without their consent for purely aesthetic reasons (I mainly mean things like piercing a baby’s ears).

    Good good.

    As for your question about whether parents could punish their children for blasphemous comments, I’d say I implicitly answered this in my earlier comments,

    Sorry, not a mind-reader. But thanks for answering.

    Now, I have already said that parents would have the power (and the duty) to enforce public morality, so if you were being particularly rude or disrespectful of others’ rights (e.g. you tried to harass your parents, another family member, or a guest, while praying for themselves, or if you defaced your parents’ bible, or said something to them like “fuck you, you Christians”, they would be allowed to discipline you, but not if you merely made a negative comment about the beliefs they were trying to inculcate with you (as for your example of swearing and vulgarity, that would depend on the context in which the child swore. I will try to explain the more general principle that all these rules would depend on in a later post).

    Politely, I believe any such scheme is entirely unworkable. There’s a reason why I’m a die-hard supporter of the United States’s first amendment for freedom of speech. One of the major reasons is that I believe that the law is too blunt an instrument to ever properly discriminate between speech that is “too rude”, to take into account context, and the other things that your scheme demands the law do.

    Perhaps you also support hate speech laws, and there is just a difference in legal philosophy and principles at play here.

    I still would like some more examples of things you think should be allowed which are close to the line, and things you think should not be allowed which are close to the line. Already, I am quite suspicious of your answers to forced church attendence, and I must politely disagree with your answer regarding blasphemy and profanity.

    Again, I will point out Dayna and Joe Martin, actual parents of like 4 children, who think parental authority is an UNnecessary evil

    Again, you go and say silly things like this. Parental authority is a thing, and a good thing. Parents can and often do physically restrain their children for the benefit of the children. However, for me as an adult, except in the rarest of circumstances, it would be battery and assault for another adult to physically restrain me for my own benefit. I don’t know if you are speaking badly, or if you are embracing this ridiculous notion that all children of all ages ought to have the same rights of self determination as adults – the same rights to be free from assault, battery, and kidnapping as adults.

    I think that you might actually believe that the same legal principles which allow a parent to physically restrain their child also allow an adult stranger to physically restrain me, an adult, for my own benefit. Do you? I fear that you will quote an example of a stranger pulling me back in the street from an oncoming car. That’s different, and you should know that. Cliche example: A parent may physically restrain the child in a candy store when the child is trying to take and eat the candy, or take the candy, go to the cashier, and pay for the candy. That’s a normal and reasonable part of parenting. If anyone did that to me as an adult, that is assault, battery, and kidnapping.

    And just in case we go here, let me bring it up preepmtively. There are several US cities that put a special “sin tax” on certain sugar-high carbonated beverages. I believe that sin taxes are immoral and unjustifiable. I believe in John Stuart Mills Harm Principle which loosely states that it is wrong to use force (such as taxes) to prevent a group of informed consenting adults from doing what they damn well want, as long as they do not harm others. (See the book “On Liberty”.)

    PS: John Stuart Mill, when actually read, also allows and promotes allowing the use of force to compel individuals to certain positive duties for the benefits of others. I am not a libertarian. However, I think it obvious that saying sin taxes fall under “positive duty to others” is intellectually dishonest. A sin tax is done for the benefit of the individual against their own will. That is precisely what the Harm Principle says should never be done.

    PPS: In the age of universal health care, paid for by taxes, a reasonable argument can be made it is justifiable to have taxes that target activities which unreasonably raise health care costs, and thus everyone’s taxes. See how I applied analysis of how their actions harm others, and thus does not violate the Harm Principle? Good.

    What I am getting at is that the Harm Principle does not and cannot apply to children. Children do not know what is best for themself, and that’s a large part of what parenting is for.

  104. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Oh, and it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”. We do need parental authority. However, that doesn’t mean parental authority must be unlimited. I am still open to entertaining certain limits to parental authority in the general theme of your arguments. Still, you really should stop saying silly things like parental authority is not necessary.

  105. Narf says

    Well, I’m sorry if you don’t like getting called out for presenting a dishonest position, Ned, but that’s what you’re doing.

    And if you seriously mean that we should go about the issue by giving children all of the rights of adults, then rolling them back individually, as necessary, then that’s completely ass-backwards.  I’m all for granting children additional rights, where necessary, but the entire way you’re constructing your argument is completely absurd and dangerous.

    Your ideas about parenting are pretty warped.  You say that my statement about your likely parental status is a bias.  I would say that it’s a clarifying indication of the source of your logical malfunction.

  106. corwyn says

    @112 Narf:

    And if you seriously mean that we should go about the issue by giving children all of the rights of adults, then rolling them back individually, as necessary, then that’s completely ass-backwards.

    I don’t see why. If we arrive at the same set of rights, why would it matter if we started with none, and added, or started with all and subtracted? Unless there are rights which are unstated, and present in the subtracted scenario, and absent in the added scenario (for example, the US Constitution).

  107. Narf says

    Unless there are rights which are unstated, and present in the subtracted scenario, and absent in the added scenario (for example, the US Constitution).

    Well, that’s exactly the problem, isn’t it?  You never actually reach parity, and you never have all of the future situations covered.

  108. corwyn says

    @110 EL:

    I believe that sin taxes are immoral and unjustifiable.

    Even when those sins put a cost on others? Do those costs constitute harm?
    Would you been in favor of:
    A) Taxing marijuana.
    B) Denying medical insurance coverage for illnesses related to marijuana use.
    C) Taxing other people to pay for medical coverage for illnesses related to marijuana use.
    D) Other: Explain.

    Can you name a current sin tax for which the behavior does NOT put costs (paid for by force) on others?

  109. corwyn says

    @114 Narf:

    Is it? Ok, if that is the issue, then I choose the Constitution’s approach. All rights belong to the individual unless explicitly denied.

  110. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    I think I already addressed most of your questions:
    Quoting me:

    PPS: In the age of universal health care, paid for by taxes, a reasonable argument can be made it is justifiable to have taxes that target activities which unreasonably raise health care costs, and thus everyone’s taxes. See how I applied analysis of how their actions harm others, and thus does not violate the Harm Principle? Good.

    One other thing.
    Quoting Corwyn:

    Can you name a current sin tax for which the behavior does NOT put costs (paid for by force) on others?

    Good question. I don’t have good answers.

    In the most strict sense, for every action I take, we could in principle calculate how much harm and benefit I will bestow on others. No action is without consequences on others. Almost no action is without negative consequences on others.

    At this advanced level of the discussion, I believe the proper and intended way to think about the book “On Liberty” is that it is meant to change the framing of the question. Some people may want to frame the question as “Should we stop this informed consenting adult from hurting themself?”. JS Mill says that the answer should be an unequivocal “no”. Rather, the only justification for using force to prevent some action or to compel some action from an informed adult is for the consideration of others.

    There’s also another moral being clearly exposed in “On Liberty”, which is that personal autonomy and the right to self determination should be held in the highest of regards. As I mentioned above, every action has some non-zero amount of consequences – positive and negative – on others. We are not slaves to society. We have a significant amount of right of self determination and right of personal autonomy. In order to allow people to live their lives as they so choose, it necessarily means that we allow them to make choices and take actions that do not maximize the well-being of others. Rather, there is a cultural bar which sets the minimum threshold for compelling someone to duty for the positive benefit of others, and there’s a cultural bar which sets the minimum threshold for compelling someone against against that would harm others. Also as explained in “On Liberty”, people should have wider latitude in choosing to not help compared to choosing to hurt.

    Let me try to answer your specific question. Sin taxes. Let’s take an over-the-top example. In the movie “Demolition Man” set in the future, adding salt from a salt-shaker on your food for consumption has been outlawed because it’s unhealthy. IIRC, it’s done for moralizing paternalistic reasons which “On Liberty” expressly denies. However, another argument could be made that because everyone else has to pay taxes to fund health care for everyone, the choice to put a little more salt on does do real harm to other people. I fear that this almost defeats the entire purpose of “On Liberty”. The purpose is to ensure personal autonomy and self determination, but viewed in this lens, there is no action which is self-destructive which would survive scrutiny. I believe that’s a mistake. Consequently, I would object to a hypothetical sin tax on the consumption of salt via salt shaker on your food.

    In a similar vein, IIRC, several US cities have implemented sin taxes on the consumption of certain sugar-rich carbonated beverages or some such. I think that’s going too far, and I am not impressed by the health care costs argument.

    What’s next? Laws against riding motorcycles? Laws against sex without condoms – the STDs oh my! Laws against mountain climbing? Bungee jumping? Ask an actuary for life insurance. Every activity has risks. We need to allow informed consenting adults to take significant amounts of risk. That’s part of what it means to have self autonomy. IMHO, that’s part of what it means to live a good life (even though I’m very risk averse myself).

    Again, I think a line can be drawn, and should be drawn, and I think that the line is to some extent arbitrary and will change depending on time and place and culture. However, the line should be drawn where it still allows significant amounts of risk and self-harm.

  111. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Oh, specific questions:

    Even when those sins put a cost on others? Do those costs constitute harm?
    Would you been in favor of:
    A) Taxing marijuana.
    B) Denying medical insurance coverage for illnesses related to marijuana use.
    C) Taxing other people to pay for medical coverage for illnesses related to marijuana use.
    D) Other: Explain.

    I’m probably very much against sin taxes for alcohol and tobacco, which means I’m probably very much against sin taxes for marijuana.

    Just now, I made a realization. If the legislature could show that certain taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are each proportional to the incurred health care costs of each substance-use individually, then I think I would be ok with such taxes. However, taxes designed to discourage use are a big no-no.

  112. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    One last thing:

    B) Denying medical insurance coverage for illnesses related to marijuana use.

    I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter at this time. I would ask this question, which implies a certain position on the issue: Is there any similar precedent for alcohol use related illnesses and tobacco use related illnesses with regard to medical insurance coverage?

  113. corwyn says

    @119 EL:

    If the legislature could show that certain taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are each proportional to the incurred health care costs of each substance-use individually, then I think I would be ok with such taxes.

    Sounds reasonable to me.

  114. corwyn says

    @117 Narf:

    Sure. (Well, not as you worded it, since parents are already in full possession of their rights).

    Since children will do whatever you haven’t *explicitly* told them not to (and some you have) anyway, you are already de facto in this case. Making it formal can’t be worse, and can make it better. Since knowing you are in that case, will ensure that you are as exhaustive about your prohibitions as you can be.

  115. Narf says

    We’re not talking about what children will do  when not specifically curbed, though.  We’re talking about what their parents are allowed to force them to do and prevent them from doing, legally.  You’re completely misframing the argument.

    And I think that formalizing children’s freedom to do whatever the hell they want and preventing their parents from curbing their behavior, by default, would make it much, much worse.  For one thing, it would turn vacationing with your children, in another state, into a complete cluster-fuck.

  116. Narf says

    One other aspect that seems to be left out of the argument … or at least I haven’t noticed it.  There’s a huge difference between a child’s rights and a child’s freedoms.  By all means, give them the right to not be abused, to be properly fed, to have a roof over their heads.  I’m all for that.  The freedoms that come with being an intellectually and emotionally mature adult need to be doled out a little more cautiously.

  117. corwyn says

    @ Narf:

    You’re completely misframing the argument.

    It is possible we are arguing cross purposes. There isn’t one argument here.

    Let me see if I can rephrase. Children are of the impression that their rights are infinite and all-encompassing (as far as I can tell/remember). So they are starting from that point. If parents want to curtail any of those rights, they need to specifically do that. Telling any child that they have no rights not explicitly given would be useless. Children just couldn’t process that in the manner intended. Since that is the way that reality is framing the discussion, it might as well be ours as well. That is my point.

    WHICH rights, when, have not yet entered the conversation (other than the conversation starter).

  118. corwyn says

    @124 Narf:

    How would you define the difference between ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’?

  119. Narf says

    I thought I included sufficient context to differentiate my usage, in the last two posts.  Rights are the more passive, foundational stuff, the way I’m using the word.  Freedoms are the more active, specific things.  Yes, I’m using colloquial definitions.

    Kids should have the right to proper nutrition, in this country.  They shouldn’t have the freedom to demand whatever they want to eat, from their parents.  Although, of course practicality dictates that there are certain foods that you aren’t going to be able to get into your little bastard, when he acts like that.

  120. Narf says

    Not really.  I think speech would mostly fall under the latter category.  Pretty much wide open for adults, but parents should be able to restrain the free speech of their child, when the the child goes freaking nuts and starts talking about their poop, at a formal dinner party.

    Besides, how often does freedom of speech, from the constitutional, governmental-censorship perspective, ever become a thing, with children?  If the child is reporting some violation of his/her basic rights to a governmental authority, that’s a bit different, and I wouldn’t really consider that a freedom-of-speech issue, anyway.  That’s more a matter of regulation enforcement, which should be covered in the same way that whistle-blowers are protected should be protected, if it wasn’t for the fucking Republicans curbing those protections, recently.

  121. dave37 says

    Why is it that so many episodes on Youtube has a terrible low sound? Could anything be done about it? It’s really annoying having to turn the volume up to max and then have your ears blasted off when you move on to something else an hour later an has forgot about the super high volume.

  122. Ned says

    @Narf, @EnlightenmentLibera; Haven’t had time to participate over the past few days due to work. Will reply to some of your points over the weekend; there’s a thing or two you misunderstood about what I’m saying and I will clarify that later.

  123. Monocle Smile says

    @Ned
    I would absolutely hate to live in your world where freedom of speech is so grossly curbed. Also, it’s incredibly dishonest of you to compare domestic violence and stealing to giving your child a time-out or sending them to bed with no dessert.

    Again, I gave reasons why it’s a necessary evil (even if it may have a benefit to the child’s welfare, that still doesn’t change the fact that it routinely impedes the child’s liberty and pursuit of happiness). Why should a parent somehow magically not be able to see things that way

    1) Liberty is overrated. That crap sounds like a teenage libertarian slogan.
    2) I’m not a parent either, but when you understand that kids make extremely poor decisions and have zero perspective, you start to realize why parents need to be relied upon…and it doesn’t matter that lots of parents are shitty. There are ways to make parents less shitty without punishing the good ones. Furthermore, you haven’t answered the enforcement question at all. You’d need Big Brother-style surveillance.

  124. Narf says

    Ned, let me try to help you out here, in terms of what I think it would take to bring me over to your side, at least in part.  This is also partially what you did absolutely wrong, on the call itself.

    What jumped out at me the most happened at about 51:05, in the podcast.  When Russel was trying to compare your argument to things other than religion, you dragged it right back to religion.  That’s what makes me say that you showed your hand a bit there.

    When I compared you to the anti-gay bigots, argument shopping to present a broader, secular argument for their attempts to deny rights to gay people, that’s what I meant.  And I want to stress again, as I said when I first said this, that I think that’s the only thing you have in common with those assholes.  Sorry, they’re just the first, best example that I could come up with, on short notice, and I’m still not coming up with a better example than the desperate flailing of the religious fundamentalists and their obfuscation of their attempts to legislate their religion onto the rest of us.

    You need to do the exact opposite of what you did at that point in the call.  If you want to win over others, you need to take the argument away from your target, religion.  You need to demonstrate that your argument has much broader application to things other than religion, which are, however, closely analogous to religion.

    I’m honest enough to say that I still don’t think you can convince me after that, since I think too many of your baseline arguments are absurd.  You made statements about mutual respect and other things implying equality between prepubescent children and their parents, which just don’t reflect reality.  You need to somehow address that stuff, and I don’t think you can do it.

    Also, what Russel said about you wanting to work out the details later reflects my feelings on the subject.  We need to address those details first, before accepting the argument, because one of the problems I see with the argument is that it’s a freaking nightmare, from a practical, logistical perspective.

  125. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ned: Now, I have already said that parents would have the power (and the duty) to enforce public morality, so if you were being particularly rude or disrespectful of others’ rights (e.g. you tried to harass your parents, another family member, or a guest, while praying for themselves, or if you defaced your parents’ bible, or said something to them like “fuck you, you Christians”, they would be allowed to discipline you, but not if you merely made a negative comment about the beliefs they were trying to inculcate with you (as for your example of swearing and vulgarity, that would depend on the context in which the child swore. I will try to explain the more general principle that all these rules would depend on in a later post).

    EL: Politely, I believe any such scheme is entirely unworkable. There’s a reason why I’m a die-hard supporter of the United States’s first amendment for freedom of speech. One of the major reasons is that I believe that the law is too blunt an instrument to ever properly discriminate between speech that is “too rude”, to take into account context, and the other things that your scheme demands the law do.

    It’s been a while, but I wanted to emphasize this point if and when you come back. The difference between rude and not-rude is altogether too subjective and too culturally specific to be a matter of law. Worse, what laws of this kind do is give power to the fringe in a phenomenon known as the Heckler’s Veto. A closely related concept is the Overton Window. (Google the terms – I’d include links but I’d go over the 2 link limit that makes posts go to automatic review.)

    I worry about your proposal, and I believe that your proposal has a very serious chance of backfiring and actually harming the effective rights of the child. If a child is blasphemous now, it’s handled in the family as the parents see fit. Not perfect. However, with this law enacted, it now has to go before the courts, which will create an incentive for the religious to react even more strongly against critique of their religion in order to claim offense and rudeness in order to claim the protections of the “too rude” exception of your law. Plus, with the looming threat of going to court over punishment, the parents will punish more strongly when they can to avoid court, and the child will self-censor to avoid erring on the wrong side of the law. It will move the Overton Window in the opposite way that we want it to move. There’s a very good chance that you will end up hurting the free speech rights of the child IMHO.

    I do believe that this issue is closely related to hate speech laws. I am strongly opposed to hate speech laws for various reasons, including this one. I believe that they are counterproductive, and actually do more to harm the group that needs protection in the long run. If you disagree with me on the hate speech law issue, then it is no surprise to me if you cannot understand (or disagree with) my above reasoning that laws designed to protect child speech have a good chance to actually hurt the speech rights of the child.

    Finally, whenever this topic comes up, I have to quote Christopher Hitchens in his IMHO best ever public speech – an impassioned defense of free speech.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyoOfRog1EM

    <3 I miss Hitchens.

  126. Narf says

    @EL

    The difference between rude and not-rude is altogether too subjective and too culturally specific to be a matter of law.

    Except that the Supreme Court tried to codify “fightin’ words,” into the law, at one point … as in the idea that it would be possible to say something so offensive that a reasonable person would have to respond with violence.  Seems kind of primitive and fucked up, when we look at some of the things that previous generations have made laws about.  And some of the Republicans want to take us back to the days of the founding fathers …

    (Google the terms – I’d include links but I’d go over the 2 link limit that makes posts go to automatic review.)

    Actually, I think someone fixed that.  I did one comment, a while back, with 3 or 4 links, accepting that it would take a while for the comment to show up … maybe that I could e-mail Russell or Martin directly and ask them to give it a nudge.  The comment just went straight through.

  127. Narf says

    However, with this law enacted, it now has to go before the courts, which will create an incentive for the religious to react even more strongly against critique of their religion in order to claim offense and rudeness in order to claim the protections of the “too rude” exception of your law. Plus, with the looming threat of going to court over punishment, the parents will punish more strongly when they can to avoid court, and the child will self-censor to avoid erring on the wrong side of the law.

    Your mention of the courts reminded me of something I meant to mention but forgot about.

    Perhaps this is the biggest problem with the entire idea.  Ned has been speaking of increasing the rights of the children, of parents and children treating each other more as equals, as fellow humans beings.

    There’s one thing that he’s left out and probably hasn’t even considered.  An increase in rights must always go hand-in-hand with an increase in accountability, for abusing those rights.  What will we do, after unwisely granting prepubescent children all of this new freedom, and they violate the law?

    Will their parents then be held accountable, despite being legally prohibited from curbing their children?  Will we be faced with the absurd scenario of 5 year-olds being tried as adults, in a court of law?  Will we just let children violate the law without punishment, because they aren’t intellectually mature enough to understand the consequences, and continue to curb their parents from properly controlling their antisocial behavior?

  128. corwyn says

    @135 Narf:
    The Supreme court ruled that ‘fighting words’ are not protected speech, and one can be arrested for uttering them. If one commits assault after being subjected to them, one will also be arrested.

  129. Narf says

    Ah, that would be all of the lower court decisions I’m thinking of, then.  I should have done a Google search to make sure I had the right level of court.  Do you happen to know which case that was?  You sound like you did a lookup on it.

  130. Patrick67 says

    @ Narf 138: I happened to be catching up on this discussion this afternoon, so I thought I’d respond to your post.

    As to the idea of “fighting words”, the Supreme Court ruled in 1942 unanimously stating that in certain instances “fighting words” were indeed not protected free speech. The case was Chaplinsky vs New Hampshire.
    Briefly, Walter Chaplinsky was a Jehovah’s Witness and was distributing religious literature on the streets of Rochester NH. Apparently he was being very abusive to the towns people and some of them reported him to the local police.

    A town Marshal was dispatched to handle the situation and was trying to get Chaplinsky to back off on approaching the local folks. Chaplinsky started in calling the officer a racketeer and a Fascist and also having some very similarly choice words for the city council and city government. The city had a law on its books concerning fighting words and the officer arrested Chaplinsky on the basis of his words. Chaplinsky sued the city and state of NH for violations of free speech. The case made it to the Supreme Court and it ruled in favor of the local ordinance.

    I have a feeling a lot of the support for the ordinance was due to the fact we were involved in WWII and fighting against Fascism at the time.

    There have been several other cases that have come up over fighting words since then and there have been modifications as to what is a fighting word, but since 1942 the basic ruling of Chapinsky vs New Hampshire has never been overturned.

    I hope this is enough info to help you check it out if you want to.

  131. Narf says

    Ah, so I had a few details right, at least.  Corwyn might be thinking of another ruling that overturned that ruling, perhaps?  Something along those lines?  I’ll check out some stuff on that ruling.  Thanks, man.

    What did you have in mind, corwyn?  Were you referring to another Supreme Court ruling?

  132. Narf says

    Oh, and there’s corwyn’s comment, right above yours, Patrick.  Meh.  I need to read the whole thread, before adding my thoughts.  What did you see in that, that made it look like they ruled against fightin’ words, corwyn?

  133. Narf says

    @137 – corwyn

    The Supreme court ruled that ‘fighting words’ are not protected speech, and one can be arrested for uttering them. If one commits assault after being subjected to them, one will also be arrested.

    Oh, holy crap.  I just read back a bit to look over what everyone was saying.  You were basically agreeing with me, weren’t you?  Jeeze, I read this comment of yours entirely the wrong way.

    On top of this case you mentioned, I’m trying to remember an earlier court case of some sort, in which it was ruled that violence against someone who had issued fightin’ words was justified and could not be prosecuted as assault.  I’m thinking it was much, much earlier, though, like sometime in the late 1800’s.  I’ve read something about it, but damned if I can remember any details.

  134. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf in 135
    Is-ought problem. I meant to say “too rude vs not rude enough should never be a matter of law because it cannot be enacted and enforced in a reasonable and fair way and be free from incredible abuse” etc etc. I know plenty of people have used the law for that effect, and I think the idea is foolish and misguided, whether it’s fighting words or hate speech laws.

  135. Narf says

    That was basically my point, yes.  Punishing offensive language seems like a gateway to blasphemy laws, potentially, or at least something similar.  The only excuse I could see for this would involve an actual threat.  I can’t imagine that there were actual threats involved, in that case, or it wouldn’t have made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

    Seems like this might in part be a result of the lead-up to McCarthyism … opposing fascists by becoming fascist, ourselves, ironically.

  136. corwyn says

    @147 Narf:

    You were basically agreeing with me, weren’t you?

    I wasn’t sure. I thought I would just give my understanding of the current SCOTUS ruling to get us started.

    I am a firm believer in the rights of free speech, as I expect a group of brilliant people who had just overthrown their rulers would create them. As something which is so important that not even the government should be allowed to override them. Not as some people seem to think, as something which other people or corporations are allowed to override (but not the government). That is the way of tyranny, as we will shortly find out if we follow that course.

  137. Narf says

    I wasn’t sure. I thought I would just give my understanding of the current SCOTUS ruling to get us started.

    … which I then read completely ass-backwards.