Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skeptics and Libertarians - The Ys Shrugged

I've been contemplating libertarians, skepticism, Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, and the facade that most modern libertarians present to the world. A review of current libertarian principles (such as they are) leads me to the conclusion that this modern incarnation of libertarianism is incompatible with skepticism. This is mostly focused toward the U.S. due to Ron Paul running for president.

This is the first of a three-part series on skepticism and libertarianism. Let's review a few terms first:

1a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions.
a person who doubts the truth of Christianity and other religions; an atheist.
2 Philosophy an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere. 

1an adherent of libertarianism:[as modifier]:libertarian philosophy
a person who advocates civil liberty.
2a person who believes in free will. 

Civil Liberty:
the state of being subject only to laws established for the good of the community, especially with regard to freedom of action and speech:under Conservative rule civil liberty became seriously eroded[as modifier]:civil liberty groups
(civil liberties) a person’s rights to be subject only to laws established for the good of the community:growing threats to our civil liberties. 

I'll be working with these definitions as I progress through the series. You'll note that 'civil liberty' is defined as something that ensures laws are established for the good of the community. Allons-y. 

Here are a few ways that the government regulates society as a whole to protect the good of the community:

  • EPA: Prevents corporations, businesses, associations, etc. from ruining our air, water supply, etc.
    Education: Ensures a minimum standard is met by all schools, and prevents people from indoctrinating children in any one ideology (except for private schools).
    FDA: Ensures minimum safety standards for food and pharmaceuticals production to reduce illness and prevent death.
    Constitutional Amendments: Used to outline government structure, to prevent tyranny of the majority, to prevent tyranny of the government, and to ensure all laws are applied equally to all citizens.

    Challenge #1 for skeptical libertarians: Demonstrate how any of these items are unnecessary for the public good without blindly declaring "The free market will handle it." 

    The reason that bodies such as the EPA and FDA exist is precisely because the free market refused to address issues such as environmental pollution and contaminated food. 

    It is clearly a matter of the good of the community to ensure we're not buying food and drink that will kill us. We can't complain to the company if we're dead; in fact, allowing someone to put known toxins into our food supply constitutes premeditated harm. Having the FDA in place ensures that most harmful products are stopped before they reach store shelves, thus limiting illness and loss of life...thus helping to protect the good of the community. 

    Anyone who wishes to disband the FDA is No True Libertarian. Does the FDA need to be reformed? Yes. Are they effective? Yes, and they'd be much more effective if Congress didn't keep restricting their authority to prevent harm. 

    I am skeptical of anyone who claims that the FDA is unnecessary. History says otherwise, and I'll take facts over your unfounded claims. Isn't that what skeptics are supposed to do? 

Teal Deer Tuesday

Welcome to Teal Deer Tuesday, where I point out painful items to make sure your brain hurts right along with mine.

But the mighty Teal Deer finds that:


Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Dear Richard Letter

I've been rather depressed over the fact that Dawkins has maintained his silence on his dismissal of Rebecca Watson's concerns over how women are treated as sex toys within the atheist community (post #75). After yesterday's release of this truly horrific report, I emailed him as polite a letter as I could manage.

Dear Professor Dawkins,
Do you understand now why your dismissive words were so deeply hurtful to so many women...and not just on this side of the Pond?
Nearly 20% of women in the US are raped or suffer attempted rape at some point in their lives, a US study says. Even more women, estimated at 25%, have been attacked by a partner or husband, the Centers for Disease Control said.”
You are a scientist. If you do not fully understand the issue, it is your responsibility to research the topic before weighing in with an opinion, especially with such a dismissive opinion that led women to understand that you had no regard for our presence within the atheist community. It is not our responsibility to spoon-feed you an answer. It was not our responsibility to lay bare the violence done to us or our pain, but we did - only to have you completely ignore those of us who shared our concerns with you.
Your silence on this is appalling. To many of us, it signifies one of two things: a continued lack of concern, or a complete refusal to admit error. I suppose there’s always the option that you think we deserve what happens to us, but I sincerely hope you’re not that type of human being.

I hope that Dawkins reads this report. I hope that Dawkins begins to learn of the issues facing women regardless of with whom we associate. And I sincerely hope that Dawkins is enough of a decent human being to admit he did not fully understand how women must view a world where men inflict such staggering amounts of sexual violence upon them.

Goodnight, Mr. Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens was a strong voice in favour of reason and sanity. Whilst I disagreed with some of his views, I recognise that the world is lessened by his passing. Raise a glass to his memory, and don't cheapen his life by using meaningless platitudes to lessen the impact of his death.

And I think we can all rest assured he'd have approved of this:

As with most breaking news these days, I found out about his death from Twitter. I checked my Twitter feed as I got up at about 6am. A few people that I follow were already awake and discussing it. As a mark of respect, many of those tweets were tagged with the name of Hitchens’ best known book “God Is Not Great“. And then more and more people started to do that. And before too long, the hashtag #GodIsNotGreat was listed as one of Twitters worldwide trending topics. At which point it started to go a bit weird.
 All around the world religious people who knew nothing at all about Christopher Hitchens, his books or his death were looking at Twitter and seeing the tag #GodIsNotGreat. And that annoyed many of them immensely.

Thanks to Davblog for posting the story.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Words Matter. Pay Attention to What They Mean.

I've been reading up on this case.

The more I read about it, the more pissed off I get.

Words matter. When someone uses positive words that people have been trained to respond positively to since birth, it matters. When the media uses the word "honour" - even though it's in quotation marks - in relation to a barbaric multiple homicide, our subconscious minds try to find something humanising in the accused. Our empathy strives to find some way to excuse some of the accused's atrocity based on the fact that if honour is involved, then the accused had some sort of worthy higher purpose in mind when he or she took the life of another human being.

In this case, four human beings died. Four women - three of whom were just teens.

Four women died because they dared to have their own hopes and dreams for their lives, and they didn't allow others to dictate how they should live.

We can't blame the country this time - this happened in Canada, and the Canadian press should know better. They should know better than to allow criminals to dictate how a crime is perceived. They should know better than to provide any hint that they sympathise with femicide.

Why would you give any hint of legitimacy to such a barbaric act? Especially one based on a misogynist religious and tribal belief that women are lesser beings and violence against them is justified if they refuse to submit?

Stop calling femicide 'honour' killings. There is NOTHING honourable in these crimes, so call it what it is: murder.

And stop allowing religion to dictate how women are treated and viewed by the public.