abounding with verbosity

Tag Archives: Stefan Molyneux

“Reason and evidence does sweet fuck-all”

Consider the source (the video will start at the beginning part of the conversation, for proper context): Molyneux is an atheist who is 150% invested in the Western philosophical legacy, stretching all the was back to the big three—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Admitting that reason and evidence isn’t the panacea it’s purported to be is telling. He mentioned it in previous videos, but not quite so succinctly (or profanely).

And, as I have mentioned before, the blob of people known as “society,” cannot be run on “reason and evidence,” because the effectiveness of material epistemology goes straight to zero when broadened above a small group of agents. It’s best at the individual level; when it becomes a overarching strategy, it just ends up being tradition with heavy reliance on reliable authority, i.e., nearly every scientific fact is based on the trust of another’s observations and conclusions, unless we have replicated, via the same process and with the same results. Nearly everyone reading this will not have done this for a majority of scientific facts, including myself. Most implementations of “reason and evidence” as the gold standard for a society to live within usually involve the threat of violence. It really can’t be codified another way.

And even then, individuals only engage in reason and evidence effectively when it’s in small fits and starts, on equally small-scale, easily-perceivable objects: organizing the family calendar in the coming weeks, or following a cake recipe. It can also be effective in slightly larger groups, like a team of engineers working on a propulsion system.

The ethos of “I’m a scientist. I live by logic and reason,” is an bald lie, or at least a very hairy obfuscation of terms. The scientist, like any human, lives nearly entirely on instinct, senses, rote habit, and the force of tradition. The only time he lives by his professed credo is about a quarter of the time he is engaged in his profession.

Rise of the Dude Raiders

I listened to Molyneux’s analysis of Zootopia (video here and audio here)—which sounds like a terrible movie, by the way—when he mentioned the white feather phenomenon from World War I. A tough time for pacifist or “other principled” guys, for sure. Being rejected by women romantically is traumatic enough, so much so that most men preemptively select themselves out of possible interpersonal interactions most of the time when they come across someone they are attracted to. I can’t imagine being humiliated in such a public, conspicuous way as those 1914’s Brits were. Such is the power of ostracism: some men undoubtedly were incentivized enough to risk getting blown to bits in a trench in northern France just to avoid the ordeal altogether.

What happened to the economics of marriage after the war may have been interesting…Google probably has some interesting figures that I don’t care to look up right now. Similar conclusions could be drawn after World War II, when we got the televised überfrau housewife trope. The logic behind it isn’t complex: lots of American dudes died in WWII, and the ones that came back were in high demand because of scarcity and the perception that they were literal, acting victors. Women became highly competitive to attract all those marriage-aged veterans being paraded around, i.e., look nice, don’t give it away for free, don’t be a bitch, etc. Thus The Donna Reed Show and the genre’s ilk. The accommodating, good-looking 50’s housewife was less the result of insidious men or graying mothers nagging their daughters to hurry up with the grandchildren, and more about men and women simply reacting to market forces.

You Don’t Believe in the First Place

Interesting conversation between Scott Adams and Stefan, in the early minutes before they get into the politics.

I like Adams, but he’s inaccurate in the self-assessment of his childhood religious beliefs, which he describes at around the 1:20 mark. He didn’t necessarily decide to not believe. He didn’t believe in the first place because he had already decided that no non-natural force could intervene into the natural domain. A huge giveaway is Adams’ insistence that any god should find a “better way” to send a message. That may be true of some conceived gods to be subject to human’s epistemic frameworks, but the God of the Bible prefers to work however He wants.

Another inaccuracy: it’s not as though any ancient Jew—not even the writer of Jonah himself—didn’t think the Jonahic fish narrative wasn’t fantastical. People knew fish don’t normally swallow people, knew how food was digested, or knew that people need breathable air to live. The Jonahic narrative is out of the ordinary because God is out of the ordinary—infinitely so. If there weren’t a few weird events in a collection of books about God dealing in the natural domain, I’d be very suspicious.

But one very good assertion by Adams: humans operate very irrationally. Living “by reason and evidence” is impossible since we we’re not oriented to do so. Not at all. Our hardware can’t even handle the software download, much less the installation.

God and Evidence

I made a drive-by comment on a recent Stefan Molyneux video, which caused an avalanche of responses, most of which I didn’t read. I did make one more comment that clarified/reworded the original. I don’t know if it helped. It probably didn’t.

In reading the video’s description, the philosophical assumptions are apparent:

Question: “I consider myself a scientific thinker, and like to dabble in some philosophy, I have also worked hard to maintain my Christian faith while doing this (an effort which most of my colleagues have seemed to abandon for one reason or another).”

“I’m looking to challenge myself by talking to you. The scope of the conversation, I would prefer to revolve around the question “how can someone be both logical and a Christian” as this question seems to come up in my day to day life to whomever is unlucky enough to ask me; but if we divert, we divert. In what ways does having a Christian faith preclude a person from being scientifically minded?”

The “solution” is easy: be scientifically minded about scientific things, be metaphysically minded about supernatural things—much like a bricklayer is in “bricklayer mode” when laying bricks, but goes into “dad mode” when he goes home at night and roughhouses with his kids. The atheist’s claim of “no god” is non-falsifiable, just as the theist’s claim that there is a god. But the atheist who explicitly frames the dilemma as such is working with a very non-scientific presumption, a presumption the theist rejects: that the only things that are knowable are epistemically falsifiable. As I’ve said before, the only purely rational position on God’s existence is the agnostic, when he claims that the question is unanswerable using just material evidence.

EDIT: Fixed some incomplete and half-worded sentences. I really need to get my head more tightly around proofreading.

Jay’s Guide For Jay on the 2016 Presidential Candidates

Ignore this post, since this is a “note to self” type of thing. These are based entirely on my (mis)perceptions, or on very one-sided conjectures of what other people may think.

Hillary Clinton – The queen bee female candidate. “Men and women are equal, but here’s how a woman would be better as president.” Benghazi emails. The strongest candidate on the Democrat side, because It’s Time For A Female President Since It’s Next On The List. She’ll lose some votes because she’s a woman, too, but people are generally familiar with her, which beats that factor out in many people’s minds.

Bernie Sanders – Appeals heavily to anyone who looks like they were in an iPhone commercial, but his message peaked too early. The Santa Claus act gets old, and he’ll burn out completely when some of his supporters find out the nuggets he’s pooping out aren’t made of gold. Wouldn’t win anyways, because old, white, male, career politicians are ultimately unrelatable (hi, Ron Paul!).

The other Democrats – Couldn’t even name them. Good luck.

Donald Trump – Doesn’t matter what his policies are, or who he insults. That people feel very, very outraged about him is irrelevant, because they are feeling something about him in the first place. His status is mythical already, because media folks have an increased clickbait article minimum for every election cycle, and he’s the primary target of their exaggerations and misquotes. He’s portrayed as a very, very outrageous person saying very, very outrageous things—bigoted, racist, sexist, worse than Hitler, probably urinates on religious texts and eats children. Has near-complete control of any room or conversation he’s in. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has a lot of interesting analysis on him. I find Trump a fascinating character, which means what he’s doing is working.

Jeb Bush – Always looks like he just wandered into the cool kids’ party while looking for a port-a-john.

Rand Paul – The hairpiece candidate. Ousted by Trump as the weirdo guy in the party, so his edge has been filed away. Won’t win by a long shot; an ersatz version of his dad.

The other Republicans – Ben Carson. Cruz? Christie? Some ex-CEO? I think a black guy? No idea who else is running. They won’t win because they are forgettable, especially when everyone is focused on Trump.

Gary Johnson – Seems okay as a person. Policy ideas aren’t terrible. Doesn’t take things too seriously (I thought this was funny), and the #FeelTheJohnson mock hashtag works in his favor. Won’t win because normal voters are scared to death of breaking from the herd—unless that breaking is paradoxically, “safely” fashionable. Libertarianism is cool these days, but not cool enough. Some jaded Republicans and potheads might vote for him then lie about it on social media, but very few people will openly voice support for someone the media ignores most of the time. To be ignored in a presidential race is synonymous with losing (see my comments about Trump), and we want to be on the team perceived to be winning.

Jill Stein – A short, forgettable name…literally. The grade school gym teacher probably passed over her name constantly whenever he did the clipboard roll call. She’s a lot like Johnson, but she’s easier on the eyes. Anyone who is reasonably attractive at an old age probably has superpowers. She’s female, so she has the novelty factor in her column. Won’t win for the same reasons Johnson and Clinton wouldn’t win.


Random Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I don’t need to mention that there are spoilers aplenty inside this post, do I?

1. Let’s get the politics out of the way first: director J.J. Abrams made openly racist comments about white people, within the context of casting—and that’s okay. He’s free to cast anyone he wishes for any reason. He’s only beholden to Disney Studios. But don’t be surprised there’s a bit of blowback, even exaggerated, when you openly state your desire for a lessened presence of a certain race.

2. Related to the above, in the context of the Star Wars universe, more diversity is very contextually fitting. There are literally “countless” species in the Star Wars galaxy, and some non-human species have races within them. Abrams’ decision, however antagonizing, is artistically and thematically sound.

3. Rey, though a very likable character, is a borderline complete Mary Sue—but this was expected thematically (see #5 below). Though most of her character dev is believable, she falls into “badass girl warrior” trope so hard it blew out the THX sound system in the theater when I witnessed it. Disney pushes this paradigm everywhere, so no surprise on my end.

4. Related to #3, her lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren was more or less believable. Assuming the actors’ heights are also their characters’: Daisy Ridley as Rae is 5’7″, Adam Driver‘s Kylo Ren is nearly 6’3″. They are both physically formidable, but Ren by nature would probably have more upper body strength. The height and upper body differences would favor Ren heavily, but there were huge mitigating factors. Ren is very impetuous and emotion-driven, especially since he had just killed his father semi-willingly just before the duel. And, not to mention he had taken a direct hit to his ribs from a blaster. Rae is more flexible by nature, which gives her a slight advantage in saber-fighting, and her physical condition was primed by a good few decades of climbing and crawling all day in spartan living conditions. At the time of their duel, she had a bit of a confidence boost from finding out she’s a Force wielder, and because the Resistance had their mission just about wrapped up. So it seems they were fairly evenly matched. It ended in more or less a draw, but I think Ren would have won if geology didn’t disrupt things. That Ren beat Finn was expected.

5. Rey will find out she is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. He had abandoned her on Jakku because he wanted to revive the Jedi order, and having an illegitimate daughter would have discredited him. Her illegitimacy was a further reason Luke exiled himself, besides his failure to train Kylo Ren properly. Luke left a piece of the map to his whereabouts, to Lor San Tekka on Jakku, in the hopes that it might fall into the hands of Rae eventually, if she came into the Force. In this sense, Episode VIII is almost a reboot of Episode IV: Rae is the new Luke, who was the Marty Stu of the original trilogy.

Stefan Molyneux has some interesting observations. The Huffington Post points out a bunch of plotholes. Only maybe 2 or 3 items listed might be plotholes. The rest are just unexplained expository elements. Unexplained things aren’t plotholes.

The Diversity Issue

After a some comments I made on one of Mike Duran’s post, “Does Christian Fiction Have a Race Problem?”, I was set to write a lot of about the politicized nature of the modern diversity concept. Stefan Molyneux beat me and saved me some writing time, so I’d advise you to watch the video below. Perpare to be exasperated by the pace of the conversation—the caller makes some pretty poor arguments and Molyneux has to clear the brush to really get at what the guy is trying to say. This is the nature of call-in shows, but it can reveal some interesting results.

To summarize my thoughts, not Molyneux’s: what’s known as “diversity” today is a preference for a trait (more accurately, diversity is a meta-trait) of a collection of people. But the way it is treated now, this trait of diversity is also comes with a moral imperative component, which is to say that groups should be diverse. There are varying reasons for this moral component, all based, as far as I can see, in politics, particularly in the social engineering aspect of political thought. In this sense diversity lies at one of the end points of western sociological thought. As of yet, I have not heard of a convincing argument that makes the moral component more categorical than other moral principles. For me, it’s still stuck at the preference level.

Diversity, though, like a lot of western progressive concepts, really means diversity of a certain kind, and in certain circumstances. Molyneux shines the light on this fairly well on its contextual scope, early on in the video. I have no moral issue with people prefering a certain degree or type of diversity, since we all have a preference that shifts with circumstances and are set at a sub-rational, lizard brain level, to a barely rational level. I’d even go so far as to say people can openly communicate their preference for diversity for a group, even one of which they are not a part…though any group has the moral right to reject the preference wholesale with no reason given. Again, the moral imperative component does not exist for diversity.

Bottom line: diversity is a preference; everyone has a subconcious preference for diversity; there is no moral component for one’s diversity preference; any use of force (political or otherwise) to set the diversity of a group is categorically immoral.

Links of Possible Relevance, Part 1

Taking cold showers may be a good idea.

Looking at net neutrality through the libertarian lens: “They are against regulation of the Internet, so they support ceding power to the government to…decide how and whether the Internet should be regulated.”

Stefan Molyneux’s new, free ebook about atheism and agnosticism is out. His arguments about the supernatural are underwhelming as usual.

Leather jackets: not even once.

Somewhat related to the previous two links: stream the entirety of Eyehategod’s new self-titled album right here.

American Government is a Failed Enlightenment Experiment

Watch from 11:27 – 15:26. My takeaway is that 1) Enlightenment philosophical ideals aren’t as great as we dress them up to be, and 2) an abstraction (in this case, the state) with people as its primary engine cannot be trusted with the exclusive use of force. Bear in mind that Molyneux is very much an Enlightenment-based philosophizer, too.

To be sure, “failed” is very subjective here—if you are a fan of large, expensive, obtrusive, destructive governments, then American government is a magnificent success.

The “Roving Hordes of Heartless Pedophiles” Fallacy

stormtrooper_facepalmBack when mises.org had the forums, someone posed an hypothetical situation (ugh) of a “uncoerced exchange” between a young boy and a group of pedophiles. The boy has no means of acquiring resources somehow, so he exchanges sex with the group of pedophiles for food and shelter, etc. The idea with this situation is that free market libertarianism cannot say this exchange is immoral because it is voluntary on both sides (for the record, I don’t think it does qualify as moral either; that an exchange between consenting parties doesn’t necessarily make it moral but the consent is necessary for it to at least be not immoral).

Making this kind of argument ends up being a roundabout way of necessitating a state, as though dilemmas like this can be decided by the presence of coercive authority structures. Stefan Molyneux mentions it here lays out the problem the 7:45 mark, pretty much until the end, in response to this article in the New York Times. Besides the misunderstanding of the basics of free-market libertarianism, the critique is clumsy and appeals to cheap emotionalism.

I can understand the need to find a “universal moral constant” that can apply in every situation, but coming to a satisfactory moral rule from such unapplicable hypotheticals won’t help in everyday life choices. The idea that there’s a roving horde of heartless pedophiles and one boy and there’s no normal community of people somewhere within walking distance that would take the boy in is ludicrous on its face. The anthropology of human society just doesn’t work like that. Just because it can be conceived on an abstract level doesn’t mean it could happen de facto.

This isn’t to mention, too, that people in these goofball ethical scenarios are always in survival mode. I’m going to doubt that a ten year old is going to really give too much of a damn about playing catcher for a bunch of dudes/women if it means he gets proper food and shelter.

What I find is that most people that argue like this really, that are fine with governments, end up providing arguments against the state—the very thing they set out to support. Seeing as the state is defined by the exclusive use of the initiation force, there can’t be anything moral about its existence or anything it does.