Christianity – Genetic Blowback?

Just a thought.

Just watched the excellent “Sex and the Church

Learned a lot. Highly recommended.

But although it explained – very well – what we know about the history of the Christian church’s embarrassing obsession with sex, it didn’t explain how or why the ideas which formed the core of the meme managed to survive past the “raised eyebrow” stage. And they are so psychotic that an explanation is required.

Clearly by the time Augustine had “clarified” the doctrine of sexual sin, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that a truly sinless human race – which is, ostensibly, what the Christian church would have liked to achieve – would, by virtue of complete sexual abstinence, have made themselves extinct within about a century.

Is it conceivable that no one understood that at the time? Not for me it ain’t. For me, it’s bleedin obvious that it would have been bleedin’ obvious to any sentient human hearing that proposal at any time. So how did it get past the snorts of ridicule? What on earth made so many meekly accept – at least in public – such a message as meaningful ethical guidance?

Not, of course, that they paid anything but lip service to the resultant edicts; or else there wouldn’t be so many of the buggers around today. So the first tactical error (in this context) made by the authoritarian church had the effect of making private disobedience an essential tool of survival. That’s not a good trait to encourage in a “subject.”

More significantly, if the tendencies to either disobedience or submission (to the demand for sexual abstinence) had any basis in genetic predisposition, their strategy also ensured the evolution of increasingly sceptical and disobedient Christians, whom – inevitably – learned to value autonomy over authority and, eventually, to reject authority altogether. Delicious irony?

I know. It’s a fairy story. Nice one though.

Optional Mortality – The Informed Consent Protocol

It’s time we set the rules for reviving digitally stored humans, once the revival technology has become available. I’m sorry if you had other plans, but this is important.

I don’t usually post responses to my forum comments on this blog but given my recent ramblings on our future as Digital Humans, it seems apt. First off, hat-tip to MrJSSmithy for the nudge. His question (Ah. If you get nagged about the unknown certificate, on the way in to the forum, please allow the “security exception”. Oh, and don’t forget to wipe your feet.) His question forced me to accept that my assumptions (about when we might choose to be revived in digital form) were a) hidden b) possibly unfounded or at least not necessarily universally applicable and c) needed to be made explicit.

There are multiple reasons we need to consider an Informed Consent Protocol, some of which are touched on in the play (Resurrection), where I introduce the notion of Omortality (optional mortality). Other reasons are touched on in my initial reply to Smithy.

While the arrival of the technology capable of sustaining our digital existence is obviously still speculative, it is certainly reasonable to assume that we’ll achieve the prerequisite storage capacity and brain reading techniques required to capture the human brain map well before we achieve the ability to revive that map as an autonomous human clone, psychologically identical to its source, but in a digital environment. Personally I reckon that gap (between the ability to store and the ability to revive) will be at least a few decades. Kurzweil is more optimistic.

When would Sir like to be revived?
In any case we can certainly anticipate that many bitizens will sign up for storage before they can ever know whether it will even be possible for them to be revived. Which means, if and when the revival technology is available we’ll have a backlog of – possibly millions or even hundreds of millions – of dead but digitally stored humans available to be re-activated. One obvious potential ethical issue will be the question of whether and in what circumstances each relevant individual has consented to be revived.

This is the most important issue which I am proposing to tackle with the Informed Consent Protocol. The idea is to allow anyone who opts to be digitally preserved to record, for the benefit of the eventual Revival Team or Computer, the conditions under which they would like to be re-activated and, optionally, the extent of that re-activation. As you may have gathered, I do not regard it as a simple “Yes/No” question.

There are definitely conditions in which I, for one, would not wish to be revived. For instance, if the planet is about to be struck by a massive asteroid or if the current batch of Islamic Terrorists has won their war against the modern world and humanity all lives under a new Caliphate – or any other form of Theocracy. Revival Mr Stottle? Think I’ll pass on this occasion.

Yes, I know that even the option of Revival would almost certainly have disappeared under a Caliphate but, a) I’m merely illustrating the point that there are potential circumstances under which I’d prefer to stay in storage. (Try me again in a coupla hundred years). And b) even (or especially) under a Theocracy, there will be a Resistance movement and it might be them who are trying to revive me.

So the Protocol needs to allow bitizens to set the parameters or conditions under which they would wish or not wish to be re-activated.

and how much of you shall we revive?
There are also potential levels of activation, short of full autonomy, which an individual may wish to accept in preference to full activation. The protocol needs to capture these preferences as well.

I’ve already made it clear that I wouldn’t wish my digital self to wake up in “the wrong sort of future”. But that doesn’t mean that no part of me could be revived without the full Stottle. In a digital environment the options are limited only by our imagination.

One such is a functional avatar, based on me but without the conscious spark (whatever that turns out to be) that makes it “me”. Such an avatar could serve two useful purposes. First, it could answer, on my behalf, any question that I’d be able to answer and could choose to answer or not based on its awareness of whether or not the full “me” would consent to answering. Second, it could identify the presence of the conditions in which I would be happy to be fully activated. And that possibility would make the protocol much easier to implement.

Instead of trying to describe all the possible reasons you may or may not wish to be revived, it would be much more straightforward if you could just say “Revive my Avatar to the point where it is capable of making the decision for me”.

Wake me up when I’m thirsty…
As well as deciding the moment of initial digital re-activation, I have predicted elsewhere that this (functional Avatars) is how future digital humans may well cope with living potential eternal lives. Unlike some, I do not imagine that, after living a few million years, some individuals might become bored and choose voluntary personal extinction. But I can imagine that, in some circumstances (eg travelling to a distant galaxy which might still take millions of years) where individuals might choose to become dormant until or unless their permanently conscious Avatar wakes them up because something interesting is about to happen (or just has).

But even if such Avatars become possible, we still need the Informed Consent Protocol so that each digitally stored human can record their unequivocal consent to the revival of, first, the Avatar and second, subject to the Avatar’s judgement, the fully restored human mind.

The other reason we need the protocol is, of course, that such an Avatar may NOT be possible, so we have to be able to leave some kind of guide to the conditions which would meet our consent.

So with all that in mind, here’s my first stab at the kind of questions you’d have to record your answers to, in order to allow a future Revival Team/Computer to make a reasonable assessment of your willingness to rejoin the human race. I do not intend to design some kind of “form” we’d fill in. I’ll just describe the issues the “form” has to cover. I’ll leave it for the legal eagles to create the paperwork.

Section 1 – Identity.
Obviously the Revival team will need a fool-proof way to identify you as the owner of the relevant digital store. That’ll almost certainly require a cryptographic proof. So a digital notary will verify your identity, record your consent and have it protected on an Immutable Audit Trail. It will include embedding the hash of the digital store (which we can assume to be unique itself) in the document which describes your consent to revival. This will tie the consent to the data. (It might even form part of the key which must be used to decrypt and unlock the data) The crypto-geeks will no doubt improve on that outline as we get closer to needing to store the data.

Section 2 – Avatar consent
Here we’d sign up to allowing an Avatar, judged – in the technical context of the time – capable of representing your wishes, to make the judgement on your behalf as to whether “now” is the right time to revive you. This is obviously a conditional consent based on the existence of technology which makes the Avatars possible and capable of that level of functionality.

Section 3 – Unaided consent
This is the more difficult scenario where we have to try to anticipate, today, all the possible reasons which might exist tomorrow which might deter us from being revived. Or an overriding positive condition which will authorise our revival regardless of any potential obstacles.

However, I don’t think it’s as difficult as it may first appear. Because, in short, you could always decide to go back into hibernation. So you could stipulate that you’ll act, in a sense, as your own Avatar. You’ll wake up, take a look around and decide whether or not to make the awakening permanent or hit the snooze button for another thousand years.

That would only require one condition to be true in order for your revival to be permitted and that condition is simply that the newly awakened you will retain the sole authority on whether and how long you stay re-activated. You might even make that the ONLY condition for your revival. “Don’t wake me up until and unless when I wake up, I can choose to return to indefinite storage”, or the more positive “Wake me up as soon as it becomes possible for me to exercise the option to return to storage”

Section 4 – Arbitrary conditions
Where the first three sections really deal with the technical issues of identification and available functionality, this section needs to deal with non-technical issues which might affect the stored individual’s decision on revival. If the (section 2) Avatar consent is possible, then this section would be unnecessary, but if not, then the individual may need to list the conditions which they consider would block or permit their revival; or should at least be present/absent before attempting revival under (Section 3) unaided consent.

For instance, someone might stipulate that they would only want to be revived if other named individuals had also chosen to be revived. Or, more negatively, if other named individuals had NOT chosen to be revived.

Section 5 – Simultaneous Consciousness and the “Right to Murder”?
This section is the direct result of MrJSSmithy’s question. It is probably not going to be an issue for the first generation of digitally stored humans because it won’t be possible, as mentioned above, to re-activate your stored version until the technology has advanced to make that possible and that is likely, in my view, to be a few decades after we’ve begun to store ourselves in digital form.

But step forward, say, a hundred years from now and there is no obvious reason why your digital clone could not be re-activated as soon as the backup is complete. As I said in the forum, I’ve always been conscious of the myriad of awkward issues this would raise and assumed that we’d avoid the problem by forbidding such activation while the “source” (or “Simulee” as I’ve named it in the forum reply) remained alive. (see the reply for more detail)

That, I now admit, was essentially a personal prejudice. I wouldn’t permit it for my clone, but I can’t think of any technical reason why it would not be possible to have multiple versions of yourself active at the same time. I’m quite sure we will do that deliberately when we ARE digital humans. For example, I can imagine sending a version of myself off to live on the plains of Africa to observe the wildlife in real-time for periods of decades at a time. It might be an advanced Avatar or a full clone. It might have no physical form, or the form of an insect just large enough to fly around with an HD camera, or whatever, and it might link up other versions of me, from time to time to merge experiences.

The question is, would such an arrangement be feasible or “a good idea” while your organic self was still around and gathering experience and data in its own pedestrian organic fashion? The biggest single problem being that, whereas digital versions of yourself could easily choose to merge their experiences, and will thus always comprise the full organic you, plus any new experiences the clone/s gather in their new existence, the traffic is likely to remain very much “one way”. i.e. the organic you will never be able to assimilate the experience of your active digital clone/s…

… and a major consequence of that would be that the inevitable divergence between the personality of source and clone/s may quickly reach the point at which they can no longer be considered the “same person”. Indeed, as I suggest in the forum discussion, the clones might actually become antagonistic to their own source!

For me, therefore, simultaneous consciousness is a big “no no”. But others may be indifferent or even think it’s a good idea. So this final section of the protocol needs to spell out whether, while you remain alive, you would consent to the full activation of the clone. And even that, even for me, is not going to be a simple “yes/no” question.

Attending My Own Funeral
For example, as I say in the same place, I can well imagine circumstances in which my organic self deteriorates into the senescence of old age and dementia robs me of the ability to meaningfully consent to anything. At which point I would be happy for my digital clone to be activated and assume “Power of Attorney” over my organic shell until it shuffles off this mortal coil. Indeed it is the vision of that future which led to my saying somewhere in the distant past “I hope and intend to be one of the first humans to attend (perhaps even conduct!) their own funeral”

Actually I now recognise that to be a bit too optimistic. Although I hope and still expect to survive till the storage technology becomes available, hanging on till revival is also possible is probably a bit of a stretch given that I’m already in my sixties.

Nevertheless, this final section needs to allow the organic source to stipulate the conditions under which activation of the clone could take place during their organic lifetime. And it is actually the most potentially controversial component of the entire protocol.

Essentially, this section needs to cover the issue of whether or not the organic human can “murder” their own digital clone, and even, in the Power of Attorney scenario, permit almost the exact opposite – where the clone, for example, eventually gives the final authority to switch off the life support system for its organic source.

I point out, in the forum reply, that the ONLY reason I would want to activate my own clone while I was both alive and fully functional, is that I would need to be convinced that the clone really was “me”. (I raised the point, first, during a lengthy debate, on whether that was even conceivable)

And that the only way I can currently imagine being sufficiently convinced would be to engage in a fairly lengthy and confidential conversation with my clone to probe it’s conformance with me. For which reason it would obviously have to be activated.

When Does My Clone Achieve Normal “Human Rights”?
But that immediately raises the question of the legal basis on which I can then effectively say, “yup, you’ve convinced me, now go back to sleep”. That, of course, would NOT be murder. (because the clone could eventually be revived again) but if we allow the more extended activation suggested by MrJSSmithy’s question, it raises the possibility, as I’ve already mentioned, of the clone become hostile to the source, or even without such hostility, developing characteristics which so horrify the source that the source decides s/he needs to terminate their own clone. i.e wipe the storage – not just put the clone to sleep. Would we – COULD WE – ever permit that?

I think that’s likely to become a hotter topic once the technology exists and clones have started to be stored. But I can certainly imagine a rule which would encompass the simpler situation described by my own preference.

For a start, given that my own clone would start out as psychologically identical in all respects to me, I have no problem in stating, on behalf of my clone, that I am willing to be put back to sleep after I have convinced myself that, as a clone, I really am “me”. I have no problem further stipulating that if my clone indicates, during the persuasion period, that it has changed its mind and now wishes to remain active, that this should be taken as direct evidence that it is a faulty copy (because it clearly does not mirror acceptance of this crucial condition) and should thus not just be de-activated but destroyed.

The first question, if you like, for the newly activated clone, would thus be: “do you still accept these conditions?” If not, the clone is immediately destroyed, whereas, if it indicates it is still happy with the conditions, then it has already consented to de-activation after persuasion.

But that only really deals with the relatively simple scenario required for the short “period of persuasion” and I don’t anticipate that such periods will even be necessary once the technology has been running long enough for people to trust it without such tests.

So the really difficult question is whether and how we would frame rules to deal with de-activation or destruction after a clone has been allowed to develop its own new life during the lifetime of the organic source. My gut instinct is to avoid that problem by blocking the option, as I would do for my own clone. Once you’ve allowed the clone to become a “different person” you can no longer kill it. The only law I can imagine being consistent with our current notions of autonomy and “human rights” – once a clone has been permitted to diverge to the point where it no longer wishes to become dormant – is one that states, from that point on, the clone is one of us…

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(Feel free to discuss this here or on the forum. You have to be a WordPress member to post comments here and you need to join my forum to add comments there. Be seeing you…)

Ad Blocking Software – Strongly Recommended

Check out this pleading inanity from one of my (otherwise) favourite sites

Dearie me, am I to understand that it’s a problem for Physorg that I choose not to conform?

Idiots like this just don’t get it. Some of us are not just immune to advertising, we actively and passionately object to it as a manipulative abuse of bandwidth.

This antipathy is more prevalent, perhaps, in UK citizens than most because we have the Beeb, producing consistently high standards of broadcasting without commercial breaks. Before we had our hard-drive backed digital TV services we often had to wait two hours before getting to pee.

Nowadays, we can just pause the program, which neatly eliminates the one advantage that commercial breaks could boast. And boy does it make for a massive culture shock when we are exposed to American TV. That culture must be behind the sentiments expressed by this drivel.

They clearly believe it is their god given right to advertise to me. As my regular reader will know, I obviously don’t believe in god given rights. And, as it happens, I don’t believe in human rights either. I believe in Liberty – which is merely the absence of constraint – and Reciprocity – treat others as you would wish to be treated in return. That combination covers every conceivable ethical question you’ll ever confront; including whether or not to tolerate intrusive commercials on a web page.

And I see absolutely nothing which justifies any constraint whatsoever on my ability to install Adblock and not just ignore your adverts but remain blissfully unaware of their existence. Adblock is a free Firefox add-on – strongly recommended if you’re as allergic to ads as I am. And those who might be inclined to follow my recommendation will not confuse the previous sentence with “advertising” because they will know I have absolutely nothing to gain by that recommendation other than the knowledge I am spreading a little more contentment. My motives, are, therefore, entirely honorable. As I’m sure is true even of some commercials. But not many…

What Physorg and those who think like that obviously don’t understand is that if I was forced to suffer their sites with ads, I would simply exercise my liberty to avoid visiting those sites. How would that improve the human condition?

Dorks.

Peter Christ

Is his REAL name.
Honestly.
Now button yer lip and listen to what he has to say.

Easily the most concise and articulate presentation (I’ve ever seen) of the case against the War On Drugs. Like all other attempts, it will not penetrate the dense wall of fear and ignorance which cushions the authoritarian from reality. But it might reduce the numbers recruited to their cause…

The Growing Wealth Gap in America and Around the World

Like me, I suspect most of you were already aware of the facts presented in this video, but I doubt you’ve ever seen such a devastatingly simple and effective presentation of those facts. I certainly haven’t. The only thing I would add is that viewers should remember that this picture of America is broadly true of the world at large. Over the last few decades, the global ruling class have ALL massively increased their wealth while those they rule have all suffered significant reductions in their own standard of living

The first major breach in the Police State?

The American Judicial System might be about to demonstrate that it isn’t completely broken. A Federal Judge has just had the balls to speak Truth to Power. A major plank of the USA PATRIOT Act has just been struck down and ruled unconstitutional. Which bit? The totalitarian rule they made to protect themselves from public scrutiny; the bit which gives the FBI and other security related organs of the State, the right to issue “National Security Letters” (NSLs). Yeah, that bit.

(In passing, why did I spot this first on The Register? This is historic news the mainstream media should be bleating from the rooftops. Just did a google for [“national security letters” unconstitutional] and the only “mainstream” entity on the first result page was this Fox News coverage! Who said the Americans don’t do irony?)

You tend to get one or more of these letters if you run any decent sized organisation in the United States. They are unethical, illicit and intrusive demands for information about a citizen; ostensibly on the grounds that there is good reason to believe that the citizen may be pursuing some kind of activity of which We disapprove. Oh, and if you ever get one of these letters, you’re not allowed to tell the “target” citizen, or anyone else, ever.

“We”, they would like us to believe, being “We The People”.

And if the relevant activities being enquired about were exclusively those which aided or abetted military attacks (from any source) on civilians (in any location) there is no doubt that We The People would approve of such well targeted surveillance and would expect to see evidence for this focussed diligence on our behalf in the form of steadily diminishing military attack on civilians. At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, we do not see any such evidence.

What we see are increasingly widespread brutal paranoia among governments. You can create your own league table but China and the USA are both Premier League teams, converging on the same level of pseudo-liberty. We are all gradually being pulled back towards Roman Law.

Wot that?

Roman Law is the historical precedent and basis of so-called “Civil Law” under which it is held that Laws don’t exist unless explicitly created by the Civil Authority. In contrast, UKUSA law is based on the “Common Law” tradition where we make it up as we go along. Neither is perfect, obviously. But the notion that Law doesn’t exist until a properly constituted authority creates it might look eminently sensible. But its real meaning, or at least interpretation by the relevant Civil Authorities, has always been sinisterly nuanced.

Rule One was that, as a citizen, you are obliged to act, at all times, within the law. The absence of a law did not, as you might naively expect, confer liberty. By definition, if you were acting in some way not already described by the law, you could not possibly be acting within it and were, therefore, in breach of Rule One.

This elegant totalitarian concept – that ALL action is forbidden unless I Caesar permit it – is beautifully efficient as a control mechanism. It means you can arrest and prosecute citizens on a whim. Virtually every second of the day you are bound to be doing something I Caesar have not explicitly permitted. For example, I didn’t give you permission to think what you just thought.

Roman Law hasn’t died out. It’s been kind of absorbed and blended with the less authoritarian, but often equally arbitrary, Common Law tradition that we “enjoy” in UKUSA. That’s supposed to mean that unless behaviour is explicitly forbidden by the Civil Authority, then it’s permitted.

Problem with that – if you’re a Civil Authoritarian with Totalitarian tendencies – is that too many damn citizens want to do too many things that I Caesar (elect) disapprove. They want to enjoy themselves, for example, in all sorts of ways that we can’t possibly permit. Buggers want sex all the time. Not to mention Drugs and Rock And Roll. Some of them even want to undermine our right to rule! Which is why we’ve been obliged to create this massive list of prohibited behaviours.

How they get away with it is the interesting bit. Chances are you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already familiar with much of the explanation for that so I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs. But on the off-chance that these thoughts are new to you, you could do worse that starting with the Manufacturing of Consent.
No, I’m afraid it’s not an exciting video, just informative.

We The People will, of course, endorse a certain number of Prohibitions. Who doesn’t agree with the prohibition of Murder? Rape? Violence against the Person? Theft? Fraud? and a few other obviously antisocial activities we all wish to abolish. Deliberate or negligent harm to a third-party, without their informed and freely given consent, is universally recognised as criminal.

All other prohibitions are steps towards Roman Law. The more they can get away with forbidding, the greater their chances of arresting you on a whim. The greater the chance that you will have been doing something explicitly illegal sometime in the immediate past or present.

This will become especially relevant when they start including Thought Crime – which they are increasingly nudging towards both here in the UK and, of course, over there in the USA. It is, of course, long-established tradition in China and a few other places.

After all, what human has never contemplated an illegal act? Most admit to having at least wanted to murder at least one other person at least once in their lives. Reckon I’m up to a couple of hundred myself. Including a large number of senior American and one or two senior British Politicians.

I guarantee there are people employed to look out for sentences like the two previous; and to make some kind of judgement as to whether such sentiments constitute a “Terrorist Threat”. And I guarantee some of them will conclude that it does. They’re the sort of people who send out NSL letters. (or spend four weeks looking for the author of a Facebook quip about wanting to “Egg Cameron” [added 25/3/2013])

They, at least, will see this legal judgement as marking a very sad day for their cause.

For the rest of us, it’s high fives all round…

The not so hidden Agenda of American Libertarianism

The Von Mises institute represents what we might patronisingly call the intelligent side of American Libertarianism; in contrast to that (larger) faction who have grown up believing that Ayn Rand was a significant philosopher.

I have been trying to find ways to unite anarchists of the right and left for some years, as we all share the same views on individual liberty and the authoritarian evil and dangers of government. And I don’t have any difficulty agreeing with much of the analysis of the institute and its founders. This 2008 critique of the American Constitution, for example, is very much in line with my own:

In effect, what the American Constitution did was only this: Instead of a king who regarded colonial America as his private property and the colonists as his tenants, the Constitution put temporary and interchangeable caretakers in charge of the country’s monopoly of justice and protection.

which, of course, mirrors my own description of (all) so-called democratic governments as nothing more than limited-term elected dictatorships.

And who can argue with:

These caretakers did not own the country, but as long as they were in office, they could make use of it and its residents to their own and their protégés’ advantage. However, as elementary economic theory predicts, this institutional setup will not eliminate the self-interest-driven tendency of a monopolist of law and order toward increased exploitation. To the contrary, it only tends to make his exploitation less calculating, more shortsighted, and wasteful. As Rothbard explained, while a private owner, secure in his property and owning its capital value, plans the use of his resource over a long period of time, the government official must milk the property as quickly as he can, since he has no security of ownership.

Government officials own the use of resources but not their capital value except in the case of the “private property” of a hereditary monarch. When only the current use can be owned, but not the resource itself, there will quickly ensue uneconomic exhaustion of the resources, since it will be to no one’s benefit to conserve it over a period of time and to every owner’s advantage to use it up as quickly as possible.

But what is clearly going to remain a stumbling block between us, however, is their elevation of “Property Rights” above even “Liberty” and the article unconsciously illustrates the problem.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, government was instituted to protect life, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

which would be news to Jefferson, who didn’t mention the word “Property” once in the actual Declaration of Independence. I initially thought it was a mistake but it is repeated further down the article, so it is clearly intentional. This meme manipulation is as unethical as any religious or mainstream political propaganda; and it doesn’t increase the prospects for unification of the wings of Liberty…

One Law For The Rich


The sheer brazen effrontery of this corruption is breathtaking. Not just the banks’ corruption (15 years – in the case of HSBC – of criminal money laundering for drug cartels and terrorist groups) but the State corruption in the form of the decision that banks like HSBC are “too big to prosecute”. Oh, and don’t forget to ask yourself the routine question: why are you having to watch this on The Real News rather than mainstream media?

Few, if any, events in recorded history have so clearly illustrated not just the gap between the elite rich and the rest of us, but even the illegitimate means by which they are permitted and even helped to maintain their illicit advantages over civil society.

ANY criminal prosecuted, from now on, in any country where trial by jury is the norm, should now argue – direct to the jury – that whatever crime they are accused of cannot possibly be as serious as what the banks have been allowed to get away with for decades and that, if the banks can be let off with a token fine (less than a day’s profit), there can be no ethical case for any lesser prosecutions. Judges and prosecutors will, of course, try to resist that argument, but let’s see what the Juries decide…

Dawkins on good form at Al Jazeera

Can’t embed the video but that link will take you there. Mehdi Hasan puts up a good fight trying to expose weakness or prejudice in Dawkins argument. He fails of course, because what weakness exists in Dawkins argument is not one a religious believer is inclined to perceive or accept.

Hasan’s arguments, by contrast, were excellent illustrations of the weakness of religious argument, though far more coherently delivered than is usual. For instance, he challenges Dawkins objection to teaching children that their recently deceased friends, being of the wrong religion, will inevitably go to hell, where they will suffer in agony for the rest of time – a terrifying image which Dawkins argues is a serious form of Child abuse; arguably more serious even than ad hoc priestly sexual molestation.

Hasan’s attempt to undermine this “radical” position is to ask: “To teach children that there is one god, or that god created the world in 6 days That IS Child Abuse?”

If you want to understand the religious mindset, you need to understand why even intelligent believers – like Hasan obviously is – do not understand why his question is so badly off target.

But Dawkins, perhaps being uncharacteristically restrained, didn’t take the opportunity to expose the stupidity of the question. So let me try.

Dawkins actual argument is based on the anecdotal evidence of a 40+year-old woman who was both sexually and religiously abused as a 7-year-old, probably by the same catholic priest. He sexually molested her and, on learning that her 7-year-old (protestant) friend had died, he told her that the friend was condemned, by her protestant status, to roast in hell for the rest of time. She obviously didn’t consent to or enjoy the sexual attack but she got over it fairly soon after the event. But it took years for her to recover from the psychological damage caused by nightmarish visions of her friend burning in hell, planted in her vulnerable psyche by an evil priest.

Hasan’s first challenge to that tale was on the basis that, as an empiricist, Dawkins shouldn’t be relying on one-off anecdotes; which suggests that Hasan believes that the example IS a one-off, which would itself be an extraordinary belief. But then Hasan does profess a literal belief in the story that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse and challenged Dawkins to prove that it didn’t happen, so his grasp of empiricism isn’t quite complete.

In any case Dawkins’ real objection, shared, I would hope, by ANY humane human, religious or not, is that putting nightmarish images into the minds of children who are not able to defend themselves against such literal psychological Terrorism, is a clear, unambiguous grossly indefensible attack and abuse of a young child. In contrast, telling them that Father Christmas is going to leave presents for them under the Christmas tree, though it might be as equally factually implausible as the visions of eternal hellfire and damnation, doesn’t do any HARM.

It could, of course. If the Santa Claus doctrine was applied with the same fanatical rigour as the hellfire and damnation meme, and, for example, children were made to learn the names of the reindeer by rote, punished for getting them wrong, and warned that anything less than total compliance with parental or religious instructions would result in Santa not just leaving them out of the annual distribution jamboree but possibly even sending nasty goblins in the night to take away some of their existing toys, then the Santa Claus fairy story could start to become as damaging as some of the classic religious fables.

Dawkins is making the charitable assumption that Hasan’s teaching of stories from the Quran is closer in spirit and effect to the Father Christmas end of the meme market than to the eternal hellfire end. I’m not sure I’d have been that charitable but it was an entertaining debate. I was particularly encouraged by the audience reaction. Two thirds agreed that just being taught catholic doctrine, as a child, was as bad or worse than being sexually abused by a priest. That’s a step in the right direction…

Assassination Politics recruits new high level supporter

this delightfully sinister US Government page doesn’t actually state that they will assassinate any of the high-profile targets named there, but it’s bleedin’ obvious that, should any “tips” they receive lead to locations in the middle of Pakistani, Yemeni or other middle eastern hinterlands conveniently far enough away from journalistic surveillance, they’ll be saying farewell to a few more drones.

I doubt they appreciate the irony of how much their technique resembles Jim Bell’s infamous proposal for controlling the world’s authoritarians and other bullies. The major difference is that the money isn’t put up anonymously by a peeved public but blatantly offered by a State that thinks it can make its own laws whenever appropriate.

And they certainly won’t appreciate or even comprehend why they’re both wrong for exactly the same reasons. And both right.

Assassination is certainly a more humane way to fight war than carpet or chemical bombing. And if the Islamist’s 9-11 attack had merely put bullets through the brains of the leading neo-cons and money-men who had already decided they needed a war, the “terrorists” would have won a lot more respect and a lot less hostility from a grateful world.

I wonder if they’ll pay out on a drone strike…

Conrad Black and The Rule Of Law

Until I watched this interview, I was utterly indifferent to the fate of Conrad Black. Just another rich bastard caught with his hand in the till. Who gives a shit?

Check it out. I promise you will not be disappointed. And then we’ll have a bit of a chat about it…
(Newsnight – 2012-10-22)
Let me say, up front, I have no idea whether Conrad Black is guilty or innocent.

But given this confident and spirited performance, and given that absolutely everything he has to say about the corrupt Prison State of America is pretty easy to validate, I am forced to concede that he is more plausible, by far, than his accusers and moralistic interrogators such as Jeremy Paxman.

As you’ll have noticed if you followed the link, I stopped updating that page in 2007, when it became clear that Obama was about to replace Bush and I foolishly allowed myself to believe that he would – if not sweep away the Police State – at least reverse some of it’s worst excesses. He hasn’t even slowed its progress. Reluctantly I’m going to have to fire it back up one day and add another couple of hundred examples.

Be that as it may, Conrad Black produced such a barnstorming performance that I feel obliged to hedge my bets. ONLY two kinds of individual could have performed like that. Both of them would believe with utter sincerity absolutely everything they are saying. The first would be a complete Sociopath who has no concept of rational ethical analysis and sincerely believes he is right and entitled to behave as he did. The second is genuinely innocent. I leave you to judge which category Black belongs in.

But the vastly more important point is what Paxman appeared to believe was a killer question:

“Do you not think a man who has been found guilty by due process of law ought to be slightly penitent?”

If nothing else, it demonstrates that Paxman himself is a fine actor; probably a key requirement for someone who has to try to pretend to be interested in “balance”.

It was like watching someone to whom it had never occurred that innocent people can EVER (let alone frequently) be found guilty by “due process of Law”. Such innocence is not remotely plausible on the part of a premier league political interviewer. Especially not one who has – for decades – professionally interviewed so many of the participants in so many of the high-profile cases of wrongful conviction and abuse of process that we’ve suffered here in the UK.

He obviously isn’t that naive, but he had to ask the question. Why?

Because, as I wrote only recently in reply to a question on my forum:

Moral Obligation to Obey The Law?
First, most of the laws we all still live under fail the Reciprocity test and thus, to this ethicist at least, remain entirely illicit. Instead of challenging the validity of such laws, moral philosophers have often been the keenest apologists for them. If you need a clearer example of the failure of Moral Philosophy, I can’t think of one.

But second, secular authority has taken its lead from the success of the religious model and routinely frames its edicts as though they are solutions to moral dilemmas. The over-arching meme is the one that tries to portray Obedience To The Law as a moral virtue in its own right. The mere fact that something is a Law is supposed to be enough to give it moral weight. [emphasis added]

It is rare that something happens in the real world (so soon after I’ve written something like that) which illustrates my point so clearly and so powerfully.

I’ll be coming back to this theme from time to time but the question I urge you to consider is this:
We all know that when a dictator wins an “election” with 99% of the vote, that the vote was rigged and the system is corrupt and unfair. But what about the Law? What success rate (for prosecutors) would you expect in a genuinely fair and honest legal system?

Israel Lobbyist in US: We Need a False Flag to Start War with Iran (youtube)

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We’ve seen extraditions to the US for less than this. So how is this legal? Thanks to ScrabbleEddie for sending me to this blogger who provides a bit of background…

The Prince is Wearing No Clothes!

perhaps if he was an emperor, we wouldn’t be daring to discuss it so openly, but that’s part of the point. He aint. And although he still represents the pinnacle of Capitalist Hierarchy, what has clearly gone missing is Deference.

Actually, I’m impressed. The beeb has spent the whole day looking for someone to lambast the prince, completely without success. Nobody gives a goddam shit. And, obviously, nor should they. Were any prostitutes or married women involved? Was anyone there without their informed consent? No, so woss the problem john?

BBC News –
Naked Prince Harry photos published online
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Lifeguard sacked for saving life in wrong place…

obvious case of insane authoritarianism coupled with a massive failure to understand risk; not to mention a fundamental absence of “common sense”.

The company owner has wisely responded to the media storm and reversed the ruling of the ignorant “jobsworth” who made the ludicrous decision to fire the lifeguard. He has offered reinstatement to the hero and to the other 9 lifeguards who quit in sympathy/protest.

But, so far as I can tell, the irresponsible apparatchik who caused the furore and who obviously should, herself, be dismissed – and probably also needs psychiatric assessment – is still in post. Why? Oh, her name is “Susan Ellis”. The company name is “Geoff Ellis Management”. I think I understand…

Be that as it may, I came across this story in the context of a whinge by a Trade Union activist – taking the opportunity of the G4S Olympic debacle – to argue against subcontracting certain Police services to the same company. He argued that this Lifeguard story is kind of nonsense you can expect when you privatise public services. Boy oh boy is that wide of the mark!

This particularly form of psychosis is certainly not limited to the private sector. I collect such stories and three public sector examples which leap to mind are the mother who died after falling down a mine shaft because (public sector) firemen weren’t allowed to use the rescue gear: the teenager who died after a seizure on the athletics track when (public sector) paramedics refused to carry her across boggy ground; and the man left to die in 3 feet of water by (public sector) rescue workers concerned at their own safety.

The problem, pillock, is not private versus public. The problem is the authoritarian mindset which believes that “rules” or “laws” automatically acquire and deserve the kind of respect biblically attributed to certain tablets of stone…

Standardised Authoritarian Arguments

this nice little image got me thinking: Is there a standard structure to Authoritarian argument? I believe this piece illustrates the genre perfectly. The standardised versions I drew from it are listed below the image…

Standardised:
1 The proposed change is unnatural

2 The status quo is both necessary and sufficient because it produces the socially desirable result

3 Permitting the proposed behaviour will create undesirable role models for children;
or
3a Children need role models consistent with the status quo

4 Accepting the change would reduce the value of the status quo

5 The status has been quo for a long time

6 The issue should be decided by (whoever is most likely to decide it in favour of the status quo)

7 The proposed change is forbidden or not approved by religion

8 Permitting the proposed behaviour will encourage more of it

9 Permitting the proposed behaviour now will be a gateway to even worse behaviour later

10 The proposed change would change something so fundamental it should never be changed

11 There are alternatives which are acceptable to us and which you should accept.

*******************************************
Now try applying that to the authoritarian argument of your choice.

I’ll have a go at a few myself. Later…