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[…] found this pretty impressive.  Spotted the link on Mightygodking (not always safe for work) and tracked the original down on TED.  Embedded here for your viewing […]


Sorry, but this guy was a major twit.

I was not expecting “liberal”-baiting at TEDTalks while having a faux-pissing on conservatives… (seriously, “we could call this painting the sixties”? For fuck sake…). The same pseudo-conservative bullshit notions of decay, impurity, overt love of restrictions and fear (yes, there are mutual drives between both types of people towards the desire of morality and purity etc. But one has some scientific validation, it’s not saying “stop fucking and smoke some Lucky Strikes”. To begin to compare is quite a feat. “it CAN be repressive… to some”? They’ve always been repressive, not a single one hasn’t).

“Even at the risk of chaos”? It becomes little by little he has a very american understanding of the social spectrums between openess and frightened intolerance. The sort where Bill Clinton represents the ‘left’.

It is a noble thing to want to understand the scope and try to find a frame to fit all, but I thought he just flat out didn’t delineate both “sides” well enough to put both in perspective in the end. He’s just re-iterating the same ying-yang bullshit, an ill-defined soft lazy pseudo-liberal tolerance towards intolerance that years ago brought us the last 8 years (that was a slipery-slope that could have turned into an arab holocaust and lynchings of mexicans and gays) much in the same way agressive “liberal” group-think did in the past to drive people away into more authoritarian values (late-80’s/ very early 90’s/ early 00’s).

It almost seemed this vague “don’t write them/us off entirely now the wind is blowing the other way” for his own sake (I don’t think he’s a conservative, but he seems this american-media made notion of what’s liberal — center-right — that we shouldn’t just not value Limbaugh-Oreilly-Land). It seems much more constructive to see what happened during the Clinton years where little pockets of hate, intolerance and authoritarianism rose throughout America when left in unattented misery to be exploited by religion and business. What values were rising, in answer to what, how were they left off so abandoned to create such moral perversions, how the dialogue between “sides” stopped being constructive, where the dialogue just stopped etc. Understanding instead of some vague loose rope for them to breed intolerance a million-fold years to come.

Whenever winds slightly begin to blow a slightly different way, instanly there comes a rush in the zeitgeist to chastise it before it can even cohere into something even mildly progressive (at least something to mirror the coherence of hate, intolerance, repression and destruction the other cultural tendencies manage to accomplish), and it just lies there either patting itself on the back in pleasant “accomplishment”, or its fake representations are only criticized all for the most reactionary reasons (i.e. the 90’s). An equivalent counter-reaction is never given rise in the way reactionary counter-reactions are in “progressive” times, only when powerless in hatred (it manage to achieve a certain vague coherence in the culture under Bush, but never a blowback that amounts to anything more than what Clinton represents, it’s always drained and channeled into something that blows back into something less tolerant — Clinton and the noughties’ hate for “peaceniks” and dirty fucking hippies for instance, and Obama if people lay back and do nothing to stop him being 100% co-opted into the business interests of the one party system).

Haidt falls under assumptions like “liberals” don’t like “order” instead of understanding both as having different answers for same drives, “liberals” just recognizing authoritarian traits as a ultimately repressive savagery — he portrays those understandings as if they’re the stereotypes the conservatives have made of the ‘hippies’ (“oh god everybody fucked anything in the 60s! No limits! They were like spoiled children of pure id!”). It seems our culture really need to stop this anti-social hating of hippies just for the sake of petty little hatred. Or just stop being a “South Park Libertarian” to wank off on the notion one’s above the fray. Or stop yelling drill baby drill or whatever the team’s hateful little pettyness of the week is (which is just a aberrantly strong face of that same ‘no-issues-just-hatred-for-those-others’).

I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise when notions of ‘above the matrix’ came up. Fuck.

Sorry for the incoherent rant. It just really pissed me off greatly.


It made me giggle.

“See, the group I’m from is cool, and those other guys suck.”


Sorry, but like so many modern philosophers this guy is just more verbiage about so little and he contradicts himself greatly along the way.

About half way through he makes the point that people tend to cooperate more when there is order and punishment and then at the end, he says the solution is to let go of that system of punishing each other and then cooperation will achieve itself. Uhhh.. huh?

He also assumes that since both political sides have the same values (though not at the same levels), both political sides must arrive at their conclusions through rational deductions – and ultimately thinking you are right is the same as actually being right. Then he uses all manner of religious conjecture and pop culture metaphor to to try and support his hypothesis – and even makes the reference that society itself is a miracle.

If he was honest about what he said in the beginning about liberal minded individuals being open to new experiences and new information and that conservatives were less open to new ideas and new experiences, wouldn’t it stand to reason that those conservatives would be less open to the new knowledge that replaced traditional, and often incorrect, religious-based information and thus be less likely to arrive at rational, well-informed conclusions? And yet, this guy wants to urge liberals to think outside the team mentality to embrace these irrational conclusions because the dalai lama and zen philosophy says to work together with your counterpart? So are you saying that medical scientists should work with faith healers to come up with better cures? I don’t think so.

This guy comes across like a abstinence-only sex-ed preacher at an American high school. I’d be willing to bet money that he was a homosexual that was “cured” through similar psychological methods.

and by the way. . I eat at Applebee’s – or at least I did until their Nachos started to suck.

Hey, MGK.. are you gonna post the Tina Fey spoof of the VP debates they did last night on SNL?


The guy actually makes a number of valid and interesting points along the way, but the overall structure of the talk is pretty fuzzy.


I found this to be very interesting, and the reactions to it equally so.

as far as philosophy goes, he’s not a philosopher, he’s a psychologist. he incorporates a veneer of religious imagery, but ultimately he’s talking about the way our minds work, not the way the world does. Also, he wanted his talk to be entertaining, not just a lecture.

>>and ultimately thinking you are right is the same as actually being right.

I think rather than that, he was saying that charging in saying, “I’m right and you’re stupid.” is no way to win people over. No way to have constructive debate and communication of ideas. It accentuates to “tribal” mentality and just makes people angry. The tribal mentality, the dehumanization of the “other” or the “non-tribe” is classic group psychology and laid the roots of nearly every atrocity in the twentieth century.

>>If he was honest about what he said in the beginning about liberal minded individuals being open to
>>new experiences and new information and that conservatives were less open to new ideas and new
>>experiences, wouldn’t it stand to reason that those conservatives would be less open to the new
>>knowledge that replaced traditional, and often incorrect, religious-based information and thus be less
>>likely to arrive at rational, well-informed conclusions?

Now, it’s relevant to note that he didn’t say “right-wingers can’t learn”, rather that they are not as driven to seek out new experiences for their own sake. So, eating at applebee’s week after week is fine, whereas the liberal might want to be trying different ethnic cuisine every weekend.

And, to a certain extent, what you have said is true. I’m sure there were many conservative members of the populace who had a hard time coping with the idea that the world was round. But this is relevant in that the trouble wasn’t learning, it was taking information they already had learned, i.e., the “truth” that the world was flat, and changing it, saying that suddenly, oops, it’s round. That’s where the liberal advantage is; processing and adapting to change and newly corrected information. That strength also contains the liberals weakness, as well. They are so good at assimilating new information, they don’t always make sure that it’s better or more useful than what they already know. That’s the conservative strength, to balance their weakness of slow assimilation. When they get new info, they weigh it carefully against what has gone before to make certain it works and is better before trying to use it.

I will also go one step further and say this; I would guess that fully 90% of the people in this world never reach a rational, well-informed conclusion. Why? Because real self-awareness and self-examination is hard. Most people aren’t willing to look that deep into themselves and what they believe because they know there’s a chance they might be wrong. And it is better to them to go on the way they are than to have to face that unpleasant reality. We are shaped so profoundly by our upbringing and our environment that most people have very little real choice in their political and social beliefs. Grow up the child of a teacher in a college town? Guess what, you’re gonna be liberal 99.9% of the time. Grow up a preacher’s son in the midwest? Guess what, you’re gonna be pretty conservative. New England old money? I’m thinking lefty. Texas oil money? We’re veering to the right.

The point? People are still people, no matter what they believe. Liberals, get off your high horse, quit thinking you are better than conservatives. Conservatives, quit calling the liberals naive theorists. Maybe if we spent more time on what we think is correct, and good, and true, rather than on what that guy is wrong about, we could get more done.


I think that Haidt ignores the wide ideological divide between what he calls Liberals and Conservatives, and almost trips over it while demonstrating their differences in view of his five bases of psychological morality and his variant of the prisoner’s dilemma. Exactly what kind of “order” is what is in conflict, not some nebulous “order” in which we all agree, so long as it’s enforced with punishment.

That he fails to really see the problem of opposition between harm/fairness and purity is a bit embarrassing; that these ideologies can be reconciled is not really an option. Both sides want their values paramount, and no amount of debate or compromise is going to somehow create some Frankenstein of values in which purity and harm/fairness both hold sway. The hyper-religious will always think that purity is paramount and that fairness takes a back seat in terms of rights (including official recognition of partnerships); and the liberal will always say purity is a choice, and that fairness/potential for verifiable harm ought to be the governing principle.

This isn’t rocket surgery, there isn’t some magical middle ground for these values.


Exar: How in the fuck could the right-wing Creationist museum in Kentucky be considered a careful weighing of new information “against what has gone before to make certain it works and is better before trying to use it?”

Conservatives don’t weigh new info against old info, because they don’t even bother trying to validate the old crap. They just mark their old traditions and superstitions as sacred and believe them to be beyond reproach and they call anyone who questions it Anti-American.


Zenrage, I think you’re creating a caricature of conservative ideology by bringing up the creationist museum, and a liberal counter-example would be just as easy to create. The museum you named was focused more in creationism and controversial religious views, and conservatism by definition isn’t directly related to those things. The museum goes for a niche view, and not necessarily a greater group stability and order, which is what conservatism tries to do.

I don’t want to make presumptions, but I think some current events in American politics has really warped what people think a conservative is and how one acts. What it means to be a liberal and a conservative is not as cut-and-dry as Haidt pointed out, and the numerous sub-groups in either camp is proof of this.


Zenrage, it’s called “faith”. It doesn’t require validation beyond personal experience. The museum you point to is actually offensive to me as a christian and an conservative, because it is an attempt to put my god in a box and define him and what he does in scientific terms.

Faith in god and belief in science are not exclusive. I have no problem believing in geological eras, evolution, genetics and other scientific principles at the same time as believing that a divine being set all these things in motion. People who cling to dogmatic ideas and try to inflict them upon others are lazy thinkers and oppressors, and just plain wrong. Pretty much indepentent of what the dogma is.

My religion is for me, and if you ask about it, I’ll share, but it doesn’t hurt me in the slightest if you don’t agree with me, and I’m sorry that so many of my fellow christians can’t see that.

I think you’ll find there’s a lot more conservatives like me than there are of the Rush variety. We just get caught up in the tribal mentality, us versus them.


Zenrage: Exar’s point stands.

Those involved in a creationist museum, and those who believe in creationism, have likely weighed the “new info” of evolution with the “old info” of creationism. What they have found is that the “new info” is not truth, or that it simply doesn’t work in the context of what else they see as truth, ie. God creating the world.

Indeed, the “new info” of evolution has been examined within Christianity to the extent that many within the religion agree with micro-evolotion and the concept of Earth as having existed exponentially longer than 6000 years. Opinions on the topic range from the ultra hardcore people (your museum builders) to those who think that all the scientific theories are true (Big-Bang, macro-evolution, et al), but God somehow nudged each major change.

What you seem to miss is the fact that many right-wing people directly tie the teaching of evolution to the degradation of society, as many see it as humanity losing its special place in the universe. To many right-wing minds, if God did not create man, then most people won’t see a reason to have morals. If people don’t have morals, society falls apart.

Thus, for many right-wing minds, it isn’t as simple as saying that evidence points to evolution as the truth about human origins. You have to understand that what you see as “old crap” is what they see as “absolute truth.” The scientific method simply cannot be used to verify/disprove the existence of God, so the very concept of validating the “old crap” is meaningless.

When you see the Grand Canyon, or a panorama of mountains, or the ocean, what do you see? What do you say? I’m not talking about pictures. I mean, when you stand there and see these things, what goes through your mind?

To many of those who believe in God, they see beauty put there for mankind’s enjoyment. They see their Creator’s hand in motion and confirmation of his power. They feel awe and reverence and often comment to this effect.

My point is simple: to them, this is validation of all the “old crap.” These moments are the things that confirm that there is a God in Heaven, that he is powerful, that he does have things in control.

And this validation is very, very hard to argue logically against.


Actually, Exar, in this little reality we live in, faith does require more validation than you give it credit for.

People have a very validated faith in hypothetical notions, that is, notions based on previous knowledge (i.e. people working towards the same goal can be trusted, the ground is solid as I walk across it, gravity will pull me down after I jump up). This is the interpersonal faith and the earned trust that is the basis for society.

The religious use faith as a back door method of promoting trust for their conjectural notions (ie I have a soul and/or I have a God that wants me to live forever) that simply aren’t based on any previous knowledge (or rather are based on a lack of knowledge since god related myths are typically used to cover up gaps in conventional knowledge) and just haven’t earned trust or any form of actual validity. I think you’ll find there’s very little difference between you and the Rush Limbaugh style of conservative beyond the application of the exact same irrationality.

Jonathan, the evidence against this form of psuedo-validation is very easy to come across. G/god is the answer religious people give for Who and Why without ever knowing the How (which as Exar said, they take on unearned faith). Unfortunately, Who and Why are dependent on the evidence provided by the How that suggests there was a conscious decision within the process or event examined. Simply put, anyone who believes they have the answer for the Who and the Why without knowing the How is lying to themselves. Anyone who uses this inherently irrational answer to validate any social or political application without the evidence presented by answering the How is simply defrauding society.

Creationists pretend that Evolution can’t be taken seriously because it doesn’t explain Abiogenesis (which only has anything to do with Evolution because Evolution takes away a secondary part of their creation myth, whereas the primary part is strictly Abiogenesis). However, reality dictates that they can’t claim their G/god exists until they show that the Abiogenetic process points to a conscious decision involved in the event(s) and then only if they can show that it is their specific god that was involved in it.

Dane, I can disassemble social and economic conservatives too. It just takes longer and religious conservatism tends to be the primary validation for most of their ongoing bullshit.


And of course, there is an argument to be made that the Intelligent Design movement isn’t actually conservative at all. From John Derbyshire’s response to Ben “Darwin caused the Holocaust” Stein:

“The ‘intelligent design’ hoax is not merely non-science, nor even merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. It is an appeal to barbarism… made by people who lack the imaginative power to know the horrors of true barbarism. (A thing that cannot be said of Darwin. See Chapter X of Voyage of the Beagle.)

“And yes: When our greatest achievements are blamed for our greatest moral failures, that is a blood libel against Western civilization itself. What next, Ben? Johann Sebastian Bach ran a slave-trading enterprise on the side? Kepler started the Thirty Years War? Tolstoy instigated the Kishinev Pogrom? Dante was a bag-man for the Golden Horde? Why not go smash a few windows in Chartres Cathedral, Ben? Break wind in a chamber-music concert? Splash some red paint around in the Uffizi? Which other of our civilizational achievements would you like to sneer at? What else from what Waugh called ‘the work of centuries’ would you like to ‘abandon … for sentimental qualms’? You call yourself a conservative? Feugh!

“For shame, Ben Stein, for shame. Stand up for your civilization, man! and all its glories. The barbarians are at the gate, as they always have been. Come man the defenses with us, leaving the liars and fools to their lies and folly.”


Zenrage, you’re obviously missing the point of faith. Faith is, by (one of its most common definitions), believing in something for which there is no proof. By its very definition, it does not need validation to the person experiencing it. Thus, a hypothesis is largely unconnected to faith, as it is essential to the scientific method.

Though you point out that evidence against my example of “psuedo-validation” is easy to come across, you don’t give me any.

In arguing about the how, you fail to note that many people who view things from a religious mindset believe that they know the “how.” Many, as Exar has pointed out, believe that the how consists of the same scientific theories that you likely hold responsible, with the obvious exception of abiogenesis. Obviously, no one can make a complete validation of abiogenesis’ how, but that leads to proofs that you reject.

As (I assume) you automatically reject the veracity of the various religious texts, you are thus rejecting the key validation for the religiously minded. Since you reject these texts (again, I’m assuming here), the various statements a creator has supposedly given about said creation do not serve as validation for you.

I know that, with a few moments effort via Google (not even counting your own knowledge of the topic), you could come up with a lot of reasons why no religious text is valid. It’s almost too easy.

Essentially, you call for validation and proceed to immediately reject all the things that the religiously-minded count as such.

Faith? Unverified conjecture.

Nature as evidence? Science explains it.

Religious text? Inadequate translations, numerous authors, quesionable motives, etc. (I thought I’d give those to you, but you can add more if you like).

My point is that there are plenty of things that the religiously-minded consider proofs; you simply reject them all.

Reality has made no declarations about what can or cannot be claimed.


If faith is, by (one of its most common definitions), believing in something for which there is no proof, why does one not also (on faith) believe in the magical undetectable elephants all around us? The flying spaghetti monster? Any of the other monotheistic or polytheistic pantheons?

If one gives credence to one theory that has no proof, one reasonably has to give credence to all theories without proof. After all, they’re equally likely to be true.

Okay, fine. Believe what you want. The objection I have is the influence on matters of state. When a person insists that a baseless theory be taught in public classrooms alongside one with a mount of evidence, in the name of ‘fairness’, I can’t help but take a dim view. Atheists and secularists aren’t arguing for enforced atheism. All we want is fair treatment, and for a positivist bent to be taken with respect to matters of state. Even if a religious morality is objectively true, it ought to be my choice to be immoral. If it weren’t the case, typical monotheistic gods would not have given us choice.

But that’s not what the conservatives I’ve seen want. They are against same-sex marriage, on the basis (among others) that it somehow ruins their own marriage (hint: it doesn’t, even if other people are married under the law, you are free to think their marriage as not real). They want the vacuous ‘theory’ of creationism taught in schools, despite that next year’s influenza virus will be synthesized with evolutionary theory and science instead of theology and prayer.

And these things merely because they offend their sensibilities. Merely because evolution does not fit nicely into biblical teachings, and with a mountain of evidence in favour of (millennia of cattle and pigeon breeding and other animal husbandry, for example).

Frankly, I’m not interested in state-enforced morality. Immorality ought to be my choice. Furthermore, I cannot support any educational scheme in which people are given theories are causally dubious, and that have no visible effect on our lives.

There is no middle ground on this. One cannot accept “a little creationism.” You either think it is an intelligible theory, and worthy of consideration, or you don’t. One cannot accept a single legal principle based on morality, this would set a precedent that would open the door for any law to be based on morality.

I will say it once again, there is no middle ground.

***This is largely a stab at religious conservatives, largely implied by Haidt’s presentation, especially concerning ‘purity’ as a motivating base.***


/sigh, I meant influenza vaccine, not influenza virus.


I think it is pertinent to state that while I pray, and I think it’s a good habit to have, I am very much against the institution of prayer in schools and the idea of “creation science” being taught.

Firstly, the separation of church and state is incredibly vital to continued religious freedoms in this country. I have no desire whatsoever to have one sect win out over the others, as at that point, it’s really only a matter of time till heresy becomes a crime again, and no one wants that. Prayer in schools was fine and dandy when we were a more homogeneous society and freedom of religion more or less meant no one cared if you were protestant or catholic. But we don’t live in that country anymore, and the definition has changed, and it cannot go back. If the state ceded that kind of power to any church, you would see widespread persecution of other sects and faiths within 50 years. It’s happened every time in history that one sect has gained real power over others.

Secondly, it’s putting God in a box again. If you try to make God a hypothesis, you limit him and define him. It just doesn’t work that way. There’s a reason the Jews never wrote the full name of God out. Because he is too big, the concept of him to more than can be expressed by words alone.

Zenrage, the condescending tone of your statements is precisely the kind of “I’m right and you’re stupid” argument that I referred to in my first post. It is the opposite of productive.

Also, Johnathan is right in saying you have a truly strange idea of faith. Faith as know to most people is a belief in things that by their own nature cannot be proven. Your definition, “notions based on previous knowledge” is actually that of a hypothesis, one of the fundamental concepts of scientific method.

1. Observe the world around you and try to notice patterns. (when that guy jumps up, he comes back down)
2. Form a hypothesis. (when anyone jumps up, they come back down)
3. Experiment. (jump yourself, and have other people jump where you can watch)
4. Formalize your findings into a theory, or if you can find a proof, even a Law.

But to be fair, to those who do have faith, that faith is usually rewarded with experiences to draw from to form their own ideas about the way things work.

The vast majority of people who are religious aren’t doing it out of habit or fear. Rather, they have profound emotional and spiritual experiences which lead them to choose a life that adheres to a code of conduct that they feel is pleasing to their God. They find that over time as they live this life, it is rewarding on its own, in addition to conjectural spiritual rewards after death. They find that living a life of humility, love and compassion improves their life and the lives of people around them. To these people, their faith is anything but unearned.

The problem with this from a scientific perspective is that personal spiritual experiences are entirely subjective. They cannot be brought into a lab and studied, or verified under control conditions. By no means does this make them less real. This is the point that I cannot stress enough. To people who have had these experiences, and who believe in a God bigger than themselves, the truth of their faith is as immediate, real and self-evident as gravity is to you. From their point of view, your statements sound like someone born in free fall calling gravity a myth.

Purity as a moral concept is hardly limited to Christian or even western religions. Almost every religious tradition that has existed in the history of the world has emphasized the spiritual and mental rewards of resisting carnal and worldly pursuits. It’s simply a matter of training. You get better at what you spend time doing and thinking about. If you spend your time praying, meditating and thinking, you’re going to get better at it, and it will be more rewarding to you. If you spend your time chasing skirts and brain altering chemicals, you are likely to get pretty good at that.

And as to “offended sensibilities”, as I said before, dogmatics of any creed are just as likely to oppress. Right wing sex police are no better or worse than Left wing thought police. As a college student, I am constantly bombarded with messages trying to tell me what I’m am allowed to think and say. Racism charges ruin careers and lives over little more than careless words. It’s one thing if racism infringes on the rights of anyone, that’s clearly unacceptable, and has been legally unacceptable for some time. But now the thought itself is nearly a crime.


>>>Right wing sex police are no better or worse than Left wing thought police.

To be fair, no left wing “thought police” has ever burned a woman claiming she was a racist goblin. Witches, on the other hand (or, really, any other kook thing in the last thousands of years — not saying religion is kooky, I’m a Christian myself)… They aren’t both as likely to oppress. It’s why such things are deemed as left and right. It’s not because of political parties in the U.S., not because of U.S. x U.S.S.R., but it’s the delineation of political tendencies in belief systems to be authoritarian, nationalist, oppressive, to be desperate to conserve the failures of the status quo (or deny them/ or desire for a specific past — american conservatives and the 50’s) and afinity to religion in forms that aren’t healthy to society.

To make such a claim that both are compareable reveals some inclination towards thoughts of white resentment and fear which would be commendable to be given more thought and examination in order to let such hang ups go (assuming one’s not a mouth-foaming Don Imus fan), because it really isn’t accurate comparison since – if it truly happens in unjust manners regularly – is rare and even more unlikely to be something to ruin a person considering the aspects of privilege in our society. I find it odd to see a complaint of that nature outside of Bill Maher’s nineties show “Politically Incorrect”. It’s almost about to come up in conversation “teh pc police” (then whistles should be blowing by then).


Exar, you have no business calling anyone condescending for calling you out for your beliefs when you can’t show that any of them are right, could be right or should even be considered right. Despite whatever you’ve convinced yourself to maintain your self-delusion of invisible sky genies, it is not bigotry to hold all philosophies to the same level of criticism. And I don’t have to give your spiritual idiocy any level of respect, by default, or otherwise to consider myself

Jonathan, your severe lack of theistic evidence is evidence against your case in that it excludes your religious conjecture from rational consideration. Just because I mix vinegar and baking soda and get a chemical reaction, it may not, by the strictest scientific definitions, entirely remove the notion that the reaction wasn’t influenced by some child’s imaginary friend from three blocks away. However, there is plenty of rational to suggest it had absolutely nothing to do with it. You clowns are not only doing the same thing on a much larger scale, you are attempting to circumvent validation for this crap by willfully confusing two definitions of faith, ignoring the very real difference between conjecture and hypothesis and pretending you somehow don’t need the evidence regarding the How before you jump straight to a Who and a Why.

How can you not be embarrassed for yourselves?

Your religious texts have no more historic or scientific significance than a 2000 year old comic book – even Vatican officials will verify the latter part. And before you start quoting historical sites in any religious text, I would ask you to keep in mind that just because Marvel comics uses New York City as a setting, it doesn’t mean there is really a guy running around over there in red and blue tights with the proportionate strength of a spider.

Anyone who considers a spirituality before they can show evidence that a human spirit exists is putting the cart before the horse. You seem to not only have no problem doing this but expect people to respect you for this ridiculous behavior as well. Your notions are nonsensical in thought and downright scary in application – how could any sane person not refer to you as clowns?


End of first paragraph should read as follows:

… consider myself beneficial to society. The reality is, it is never reasonable, rational or ethical to accept, establish, or promote a spiritual conjecture as a validation for any socially or politically beneficial action, when the exact same conjecture can then be used to validate any socially or politically abusive action, inaction or interaction. If there is no validation for the presumption, then there is no validation for the conclusion.


Robert, the left wing thought police of Russia were perfectly happy to throw you in a gulag or just up and shoot you for most of the twentieth century. Different culture, different power level, same basic concept. Dogmatic thinking leads to oppression, it’s just a matter of degrees.

Zenrage, you are arguing in a loop. You refuse to accept any subjective evidence for the existence of the spiritual, despite thousands of years of universal human experience stating firmly that there is more to the universe than can be seen with the eyes and touched with the hands. You demand objective evidence where you know none can be found and act as if the lack of said evidence is cause to completely dismiss the issue.

You, in effect, claim that science is perfect, and given enough time, will be able to understand and quantify everything in the universe, and that everything that exists is fundamentally rational and based in repeatable scientific laws.

And you, as an acolyte of rational thought and science, demand that all aspects of the world reveal themselves to you in such a way as to be proven beyond doubt or disproven utterly.

You seem to think that anyone who believes anything that cannot be so proven should be at the least ignored, if not chastised and mocked for their backwards mentality. That they should be treated as if they were insane and speaking of their imaginary friend.

Sound about right?

I pity you. Your reality is a cold, dark place. It seems utterly bereft of wonder and miracle. My reality is a lot nicer place. I’m sorry you can’t see it.


Mate, no one ever thought — like, ever — that Russia represented the left. Maybe only people who take power’s words (“we russia r teh left!”) without thinking (i.e. you believe they’re the left, you believe U.S. is capitalist, Iraq war is freedo exportation, Nazi Germany were exporting christian values of purity etc). Dissidents were called anti-Russia (sound familiar?), totalitarian, nationalist, etc. Those are right-leaning policies. Right and left are not deemed through the lens of U.S. x U.S.S.R.. They were academic delineations that dated much back than that. It’s a well known falacy in public discourse in the U.S. (meaning, the overall doctrine) that “lefty commies” had desires of association with a brutally reppressive state like Russia.

Are you that dense? Do you think peace-loving hippies talking shit about Marx were genuinely trying to bring the gulag home to their lives because they just loved police sticks on their heads when they were retardedly calling the police ‘fascists’ and ‘nazis’ during protests?


Zenrage, you seem not to have read my previous comment, as you did not address my point.

You immediately dismiss any evidence given to you because it is not scientifically verifiable.

Please clarify what definition of faith is being confused with another. I have stated what definition I am working with, and the other most common definitions are “complete trust and confidence ” or “a strongly held conviction.” Please tell me how we are “willfully confusing” two of those definitions.

Of course there is a difference between hypothesis and conjecture. How are we ignoring it?

Have you, personally, built a car engine, a jet engine, a microchip, or a building? Have you, personally, examined atoms and been involved in their analysis at the subatomic level? Have you, personally, set up a plumbing or electrical system? Have you, personally, witnessed the evolution of one lifeform into another? Have you, personally, watched a black hole form? Have you, personally, been involved in the special effects for a major Hollywood film?

Can you tell me how all these things are done? You can probably give me the 5Ws for most, if not all, off the top of your head. You can likely give me the how in a lot of the cases, and are likely able to research the explanations or theories for the rest.

For the ones that you haven’t personally experienced, you accept the words of others as being honest. You have faith (this is the “complete trust and confidence” definition) that what these others tell you is true. You accept this, based on your own experience, and the evidence of things around you.

At the same time, there are millions of people who believe that the words in the religious texts are true. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe that creation was spoken into existence by a divine being because they trust those who recommend these writings.

You have not personally experienced a connection to this divine being (I assume), so you have no trust for these texts.

If you immediately say that the millions of people (literally billions over millenia) who feel that they have personal experience with something beyond the physical are all inadmissible as evidence, then there’s no point discussing the topic with you.

But this. This is just a sad, sad statement: “Your notions are nonsensical in thought and downright scary in application”

The notion that there is something more powerful than ourselves that we can rely on in times of trouble is a bit nonsensical.

I mean, the alternative is so appealing and makes so much sense: that we all exist for no purpose, with no meaning, as random bits of flotsam in an uncaring universe; that we are no more than a bundle of elements with electrons firing off to create the illusion of coherent thought; that it doesn’t matter whether we’re nice to each other or not, since we are only a few billion years removed from microbes, so the strong preying on the weak is perfectly justifiable; or that we should all cooperate in society for the benefit of everyone in the society in order to make everyone’s lives better despite the fact that we know many things will come easier or faster if we circumvent that society’s ultimately meaningless laws.

So, since the former idea is so nonsensical, its application is frightening. That there is a supreme being powerful enough to create everything and who has a specific set of moral guidleines by which one should act. That, if one follows these moral guidelines (crazy, scary stuff, like not killing, stealing, or lying), one will ultimately be rewarded. But, if one does not follow these guidelines, one will be punished.

Yeah, downright frightening when one compares it to the potential outcome of believing that there is no ultimate meaning: you have no purpose; on a universal scale, nothing matters; you are a random bit of meaningless nothing, but you should still be nice to those around you so society can benefit and the world will be a good place for your children and grandchildren, the only part of you that continues on, except that your great-grandchildren will probably need to look in a book to, maybe, find your name. Yeah, with that encouragement, saving the planet seems so vital. The worst villains go down in history and only the rare positive figure.

With the atheistic worldview, if you want immortality, degradation will get you there faster.

a fat cur said on October 7th, 2008 at 5:57 pm

I see evidence of condescension on both sides and thus, many of the posts here have demonstrated a wonderful example of Haidt’s cloudy, but apparently true, insight.

Keep up the great work you’re doing for your respective teams. Really.


Oh look, a guy who’s above the fray! A special one!

Above the matrix!


I gotta say, y’all do SHOW a better case for tribalism being hardwired in us than Haidt TELLS.

a fat cur said on October 7th, 2008 at 7:24 pm

I’m not above it. Or at least I don’t think so. I believe I’m just pointing out that this “conversation” isn’t helping either side of the debate. I’m certainly within “the matrix”. And really, I love a good argument and often argue for the sake of arguing, but this argument? This argument is getting nasty.


“I gotta say, y’all do SHOW a better case for tribalism being hardwired in us than Haidt TELLS.”

I don’t disagree about that part. I disagree about this mythical common ground in which we all happily agree.

Exar – I don’t care which religions have definitions and recommendations for purity. All I’m saying is that it ought not to be codified in law. If I’m gay, and I have a same-sex partner with whom I wish to get married, I ought to be able to do it. The arbitrary morality of *any* religion ought not to be enforced on anyone. For the record, I consider intellectual pursuits more satisfying than physical ones, but that doesn’t mean that I think that I should impose my view on others. Some people find physical pursuits more rewarding, and they ought to be able to pursue their preference so long as no one else is harmed.

As for “being told what to think,” I can’t imagine finding that more prevalent than in a religious setting. /rollseyes You’re free to think what you want, just don’t try to enforce it on anyone. I certainly don’t want to tell you what to think, you’re free to think whatever you want. I would have probable theories taught in classrooms instead of religious ones (i.e. evolution, rather than creationism).

Jonathan – It would be really nice if life had meaning. It doesn’t (or, at least there is no evidence to support that it does). *Wishing for something does not make it so.* Insofar as everything is meaningless, I find it interesting that you immediately attribute life’s meaning to being remembered in some bizarre bid for ‘immortality.’ Not all of us are such egomaniacs. Some of us would sooner live comfortably in a safe, healthy and free environment than have our names in the annals of history. Even if I did have the desire to be remembered, I would want to be remembered well (thought of as just, or fair) than remembered with a curse.


You do have a point, Imp (can I call you Imp without the definite article?).

My point was less regarding immortality (though that is what it came across as) then simply how easy it is to go from the belief in a life without meaning to shortcuts that circumvent treating others, or the planet for that matter, with any level of respect.

I mean that any arguments towards morality or goodness for the benefit of a society that will likely have completely forgotten you in three generations are meaningless if all one believes is that we are here for no purpose, as random animals on a random ball of random elements in a completely random universe.

While it is egomaniacal to seek immortality, I was pointing out that the idea of leaving any part of oneself, even in children (a fairly common and not overly egomaniacal desire), is ultimately rendered meaningless if you think about how quickly one is forgotten.

My connection to immortality is simply that many people who believe as you do, egomaniacal or not, want to be remembered in some way. Either through children or otherwise. I was pointing out that, if one thinks about it, you will be forgotten.

Thus, if you are destined to be forgotten, and you are doomed to an ultimately meaningless existence, why bother to take anything but the easiest paths through life? Why bother to help those in worse situations than yourself? Why care about murder or anything else? Why pay any attention to any morality outside of your own idea of what is right? Why care what anyone thinks if you kill the person who just finished at the ATM because they got out a wad of cash? Why not take any woman that appeals to you? Why care when something like the Holocaust, Darfur, or 9/11 happens?

Essentially, what I am trying to do, is take the idea of a meaningless existence and its implications to its extreme end.

I am doing this because, for some reason, the most extreme examples of religious groups are consistently being pointed at as examples of what that faith represents (here used with the definition of a group believing in the same basic tenets).

In any case, even psychologists who aren’t of any particular religious affiliation will tell you that it is much healthier to find a meaning for your existence than to just exist without.

I realize that there are numerous atheists/agnostics who lead good, moral lives. There are a lot of these people who believe that they need to work for the benefit of society.

Anyways, I think a fat cur is right. This whole thing is getting nastier than it needs to be.

Obviously, this small group of MGK fans cannot find any middle ground. I like to think that we’re all trying to be above the “I’m right, and you’re stupid” idea, but I don’t know how well any of us are succeeding.

It has been an interesting mental exercise, though.

I shall continue to read the comments on this post, but I don’t think it would be beneficial to continue debating. Maybe we can all discuss something more meaningful on another post. Maybe something about the Legion of SuperHeroes.

Ned Flanders: “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, then.”
Principal Skinner: “I don’t agree to that!”
Edna Krabapple: “Neither do I!”


Of course you can call me Imp, it is my screen name, after all 😉

I understand your project regarding the logical extreme of the meaningless of life. I don’t, however, agree with your conclusions. If I’m destined to be forgotten (and this is all but certain*, given how many individuals are ‘remembered’ after even a single millennia), and I am doomed to an existence without meaning, it does not follow that I ought to take the ‘easiest paths’ or be completely without regard for others. It just as easily follows that I could be an ascetic, or kill myself, or become a serial killer. All these things are equally arbitrary.

The ‘easiest paths’ are not always the most fulfilling (and I don’t mean that in any moralistic sense, I mean the feeling and sense of accomplishment after a task hard earned). One can still have goals in spite of a life without meaning. I can have a goal of a stable, secular society. I can appreciate art, in all its forms. Even in the meaninglessness of life, we need not taste only ashes. After all, life, this finite set of time, is all we’ve really got (as I see it, your mileage may vary), and we ought to do with it what makes us happy (with the recognition that these things may conflict with the preferences and goals of other equally ephemeral beings).

Insofar as any goal is arbitrary in the face of meaninglessness, they need not be unwholesome. You ask “Why care?” I ask, “Why not care?” If I get a good feeling from a sympathetic response for helping my fellow human, does it not, in the face of moral vacuousness and a life without meaning make sense for me to help them out? The answer is that either is okay (whatever ‘okay’ means, eh?).

*Being forgotten is a certainty. Your family line may extinguish. Catastrophes, natural or otherwise will occur. Simple apathy is an anathema to the desire to be remembered. There can be no assurance here, and that’s fine with me 😛


Personally, I’ve always considered the left-right struggle to be a big tug of war. if either side wins, we’re all kind of boned, because one way is a communist dictatorship, and the other is a theocratic dictatorship. Either way, the common man is screwed. This is why good old democracy works. It enforces that tug of war and ensures that neither side gets too far along its path.

Robert- Of course the hippies didn’t want the gulag. They wanted the societal equality that socialism in concept can provide. Likewise, no conservative wants a return of the inquisition. My point is that both sides can and have been subverted by evil men to serve purposes that they were not meant for. And dogmatic thinking makes it all too easy for those men to step in.


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