A Word on “Community” and Movement Atheism

Please join me in welcoming our newest guest author to the Manifesto – Jasmine! You will undoubtedly remember her from her participation in episode 5 of SERIOUSLY?! I am excited to have her perspective joining the crew here, and am looking forward to hearing more from her.

This post by Jasmine

Between Thundef00t’s recent videos —where he projects his views on free speech, how feminism is “poisoning” the atheist/secular community (it isn’t) & how he thinks secular women should respond to disrespect on the internet— and the recent failed “experiment” carried out by a few YouTube atheist vloggers to see if viewers care more about content with drama than topics of substance(the three main culprits have since closed their channels), it’s pretty obvious that things are not as they should be in this collective known as the YouTube atheist community…hell, maybe with the main atheist and secular community, period.

These occurrences, along with the continued issues regarding the treatment of women and other groups, have me and others wondering if it makes sense to continue to build a community or a movement based only on the basis of a lack of belief in a god or gods. I would argue that having such a community in itself isn’t a bad thing and shouldn’t be dissolved; however I do think there are micro-issues within the community that I think need to be addressed. [Read more…]

The usefulness of the duelling myth postulate

Yesterday we ran through a few examples of arguments that can be framed using the duelling myth model. I want to stress how trivially easy it was to find those arguments, and the relative ease with which I was able to fit them into the framework. Indeed, anyone who has spent any amount of time involved in political debate can probably think of about a dozen other examples without even breaking a sweat. The framework seems to be applicable to any situation in where there is an argument over a proposal to take action to change something (which is, one would imagine, a lot of arguments).

So the question becomes why is this framework useful? What discriminant or rhetorical ability does it give us that simply having ready counterarguments to things wouldn’t accomplish? Well, if we can learn to recognize the common premise between bad arguments, label them, and walk them through accordingly, perhaps we can explore the similarities between arguments that we might not necessarily support.

Our first example, the hypothetical “welfare” one, could accurately be described as a ‘conservative’ versus ‘liberal’ one, at least in a political sense. The ‘conservative’ argument tends to fall on the side of doing as little as possible* and allowing the ‘free market’ or the ‘marketplace of ideas’ to fix problems – i.e., the world is a fair place if you just give it time. The ‘liberal’ position, by contrast, suggests that collective intervention is needed to fix problems – i.e., the world is an unfair place. [Read more…]

A Primer On Canada’s Indian Act

A post by Jamie

There seems to be a lot of misinformation and possibly wilful ignorance perpetually circulating around about Canada’s—quite frankly genocidal—140-year-old Indian Act. Internet trolls and eugenicists alike declare that it has so many “benefits” for First Nations. Special emphasis is placed on the two separate events in Canada’s history that a proposal for putting The Indian Act through the shredder was shouted down by a majority of indigenous peoples. This, in turn, is declared as evidence of how beneficial the Act is to the people over whom it legislates. I disagreed that the Act had any benefit to indigenous peoples at all, before actually committing to sitting down and reading the entire length of its current revision on Monday. I even disagreed that it had any utility before finding a handy list of all the revisions that have been made since it was written, because I’ve heard plenty from indigenous peoples, of what a piece of work this thing really is. And I still think it’s the work of a eugenicist scumbag now, after reading its entire length in the current revision (no wonder all the eugenicists agree with each other!), and this post is going to be about every reason why I came to that conclusion years ago.

[Read more…]

The duelling myth postulate examined: #IdleNoMore

Our next example comes courtesy of the comment threads from this story. I highly suggest that if you read Christie Blatchford’s execrable opinion piece, you take the time to read this patient takedown from Rabble. This comment is, admittedly, cherry-picked, but it is a relatively common argument that turns up pretty much every time racial justice and historical antecedents of racial inequalities are discussed. I don’t read the National Post, so I am not sure how typical the approval the comment is receiving is for that audience, or how representative it is of the general populace, but I’ve heard this line of argument many times before. I don’t find it a particularly egregious example (even though the racism is a bit more nakedly expressed than is usually considered polite): [Read more…]

Moral conflict in the dueling myth postulate

We can see from the previous discussion that it is trivially easy to imagine a situation in which two parties come into direct moral conflict over a single issue, owing almost entirely to their respective evaluations of the fairness of a system. Where one side sees a strong moral imperative to preserve a system, the other sees an equally-strong imperative to change the system completely. The conflict that arises therefore becomes about more than mere facts – it becomes a direct clash of two competing mythologies.

Let us consider for a moment a facile and hypothetical case example. A member of Parliament (MP Jones) proposes a bill that would raise the average amount of monthly income given to people receiving social assistance (welfare). A member from an opposing party (MP Nguyen) objects strongly to the idea: [Read more…]

Ethical dimensions of the dueling myth postulate

It is profoundly mundane to merely point out “hey, some people don’t agree about some things“, but it’s when we consider the moral consequences of these disagreements that the ‘rubber hits the road’, so to speak. Because we have general agreement between parties that fairness is both morally good and important, but disagreement over whether or not a system is in a state of fairness, conflict arises immediately. [Read more…]

The dueling myth postulate

I wish to postulate that it is useful to think of many disagreements as the collision of two opposing myths. The first myth, what I call the ‘fairness myth’ (and will heretofore refer to as f-myth) is very simply stated: the world is a fair place. You will undoubtedly have heard this described as the ‘just world theory’, ‘just world hypothesis’, or ‘just world fallacy’. I prefer the term ‘myth’ for the reasons I spelled out in yesterday’s post – it is a story that we tell about ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Those things we have were obtained fairly, and our position is justified according to our understanding of moral axioms.

The countervailing myth is, of course, the ‘unfairness myth’ (u-myth) – that our position in the world is not in accordance with moral axioms, and that we (or others – more on that later) are being arbitrarily deprived of access to a state of harmonious existence.

I would imagine that it is fairly trivial, at this point, to simply point at the f-myth and say “well we know the world isn’t fair, so this myth is obviously false”, but that would be jumping the gun a bit. Remember that ‘fair’ is not claimed to be an inherent property of the universe, but rather a social convention created by humans. A more precise way of stating the f-myth might be something like this: [Read more…]

The audience for this argument

A final note to sum up the preamble to this discussion. This whole idea is predicated on an assumption for which there is abundant counter-factual evidence. The central dogma of the discussion is that people in disputes both agree that ‘fairness’ is a good and desirable thing. Yes, I can hear you snickering, because there are no shortage of folks who are of the “I got mine, so fuck you” persuasion, and this argument will have very little to offer them. I am intentionally delimiting this discussion to people who can at least agree that fairness, in principle, is a mutual goal.

It may also serve me well to note here (I plan to re-assert this in various places later on in the discussion) that this is an extremely speculative exercise, as far as I am concerned. I will not attempt to make truth claims, because there is very little by way of empirical evidence that I can marshall in defence of this idea. It is rather an attempt to make explicit an argument that I have made many times in the past, but in varying and often oblique ways.

Finally, what I am proposing is more of a rhetorical device than it is a psychological or cognitive framework. I may appear to have to twist the facts to fit the framework, but I hope it will not be too egregious.

Tomorrow I will begin to sketch the outline of my thesis.

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