Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cataclysmic Astral Phenomena Are Best Viewed With Your Head in the Sand

From the 'watercooler conversations' thread. This interchange between commenters filrabat and CM highlights the disconnect many opponents of antinatalism experience when reason collides with a cherished belief i.e. that bringing new people into the world is a good thing:

Last Days on Earth, about ten disasters that could render humanity extinct or nearly so. @ 2:32 a woman's answers the question "What would you do if you learned a giant asteroid were about to hit the earth soon?" that she'd have kids, even if she acknowledges there'd be a certain selfishness in it. Most of the video posts commenters REALLY tore into her! Still, I think the only reason they did so is that the consequences were immediate and staring in our face. Apparently, most of us are good at taking the ultimate good step ONLY when the threat is imminent and obvious. Even so, it shows we CAN choose if we're sufficiently motivated.

By filrabat on Watercooler Conversations on 4/26/11

filrabat- the comments on that video are a gold mine! "bring one more person into the world to suffer and selfish" "so you are going to bring more life into existence just to expect death?" Apparently, these people think their children will be immortal and suffering-free. Priceless. But I suppose if push really came to shove, everyone would quickly "realize" that a life that lasts for several years in a collapsed society followed by burning to death is better than no life at all...

By CM on Watercooler Conversations on 4/26/11

Each person inhabits a world whose particulars are unlike any other, a world unique in terms of space, time, and all the subjective moments which serve to delineate one from all the rest. World after world, rising out of the dust of chaos. Patterns of force deriving their energies from the entropy of the universe, formed of the last gasps of stars that once burned brightly, but are no more. Vortexes whirling like dervishes in the midst of flux and decay.

For each of these worlds, there's a giant asteroid on the way. Its path is straight, its target is clear, and its existence is absolutely undeniable. What's the difference between placing a child in front of a loaded gun, and bringing it into a world where it must one day face the giant asteroid? Deniability. Psychological distancing. Ambiguous, ungrounded feelings of hope that "oh, everything will probably turn out alright."

Then again, we put our children in front of loaded guns all the time, don't we? There's that national/cultural/species vicarious immortality rearing its ugly head once again. Stand up for what's good and true. Defend the dignity of the human spirit. Always buy savings bonds. But whatever else you do, for crissakes- DON'T LOOK UP!

There's a giant asteroid coming with your name on it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Call for Papers

An opportunity for the academically inclined amongst you. Thanks to commenter Rob for the heads up!

Comfortably Numb

The epitome of artistically rendered angst, and a damned good listen. Enjoy.

Try to catch the whole album sometime, for those youngsters who haven't heard it yet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Doing Time on Planet Earth (or, I know no Godot, only the waiting)

When you kick back and listen to all the sounds around you, you get the sense it's all just a cacophony of static. The sirens blaring by. The neighborhood dogs responding. The background of crickets and rustling leaves. Your stomach gurgling. Your heartbeat drumming softly on the inside of your eardrums. Tires on asphalt. The tiny whir of insect wings. Skin respiring. Toenails growing. The crackle of cigarette paper. A slight creaking in your right elbow. And all those thoughts, one after the other and in bunches, your mind a kaleidoscope of random, mostly unconnected clips that you nevertheless try to spin into a workable haversack in which to tote your sense of self around. But, wait a minute! Who is it doing the spinning, the hearing, the dreaming? Nobody, really. Watch the coffee grounds circling the drain. Did you glimpse a face there, just for a moment? Or a flash of scenery that took you back to an earlier time?

As far as I can tell, there are no selves. No you. No me. No he, nor she. Just stuff, whirling around and interacting according to very basic impulses, drawing rather wiggly pictures on what amounts to a quite sizable Etch-A-Sketch screen. All random within the confines of its limited nature, but reflecting upon itself in such a way as to confuse partially memorized patterns with a belief in order. In place. In time. However, while there is no self per se, there IS a sense of self, a complex of feedback loops feigning isolation in the midst of flux. This is what's generally referred to as 'consciousness', a hall of synaptic mirrors with the peculiar ability to adapt to its own generated illusions. And so, in this way, chimera becomes trapped within walls of pseudo-solidity, a nexus of reflection caught in the Narcissistic delusion of false light, praying for simultaneous change and endurance under a sky where the stars are going out one by one, shitting its pants over the encroaching darkness and coping the only way it knows how. By imagination, and replication. Think Hilbert's Hotel, only replace 'Hotel' with 'Prison Block' and you'll get the picture. On the other hand, my gratuitous/necessary use of pronouns, including all the implied ones, probably negates a lot of what I have to say here. Ah, language.

Feeling Lucky?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Never Keep Your Eggs in One Basket- A Vicarious Immortality Tale

So, I'm imagining this guy who's been condemned to death for making unauthorized shadow puppets of the Pope, or some such thing. The method of execution is decapitation, in the days before the relatively clean implementation of the guillotine, when the axeman sometimes had to chop away at the neck for awhile before the head eventually dropped off. The axeman raises his weapon, and the guy immediately soils his jodhpurs and starts shrieking in terror. The axeman, who's really a decent sort of bloke who is, after all, only doing his job (everybody has to make a living), feels sorry for the guy. And so, he whispers below the clamor of the bloodthirsty mob viewing the proceedings-

"Not to worry, my friend, for I happen to know that your children have been secreted away to a place beyond the reach of your enemies. And so, you see, you will live on through the lives of your children, and their children, and so on, and so forth."

Then the call is made- BATTER UP!- and the axeman takes his swing! Once! Twice! Thrice! Um...Quatro! until the head finally falls loose into the basket. And I'll be damned if the guy's head isn't wearing a smile, face down, there at the bottom of the basket.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Triablogue- My Final Word

I initially tried to post this reply here, but I guess it was too long, so here's my final word on the matter for now:

“This is a fallacy of question-framing. Jim acts as if a “yes” or “no” answer settles the question in favor of antinatalism. But that’s grossly simplistic.”

Actually, a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ pretty much covers what I was looking for, with perhaps the added codicil in place (which I also posted)-

“Question: Do you believe that for a child who ultimately ends up suffering an eternity of unceasing, hellish torments forever and ever, it would have been better for that child never to have been born?

Answer: Yes, but because of a, b and c (fill in the blanks) I am justified in overriding my concerns vis-a-vis my child's possible hellish fate.”

“ Notice the blatant equivocation. On the one hand he denies that his argument was predicated on “objective” or “universal” moral standards. On the other hand he appeals to “normative” moral sensibilities based on empathy.”

That’s because ‘normative’ in the context of the reply falls short of ‘objective’ or ‘universal’, a fact I expanded on by saying “ If your personal standard is that a child is better off being tortured for eternity originating in your decision to procreate, then any of my arguments simply don’t apply to you.” It was always a question of personal standards; thus, no equivocation. Normative simply describes a moral position that (I believe) most people subscribe too, a position that I feel stands against the desire to procreate.

“Even on its own terms, the appeal to empathy is a double-edged sword. What about empathy for those denied the opportunity to enjoy eternal bliss–a la antinatalism?”

Imaginary people don’t require empathy. Isn’t that rather obvious?

“Underlying this objection is Crawford’s systematic failure to distinguish between harming someone and wronging someone.”

This and all that follows seems irrelevant, since if a child is never born, she neither is harmed nor brings reason for punishment upon herself. Again, the whole exercise here isn’t meant to question the veracity of your God’s form of justice, but simply to point out that, from their own ideological standpoint, Christian procreationists are automatically exposing their offspring to the threat of eternal Hell, and to explore their justifications for doing so.

“Crawford is attempting to generate a dilemma for Christians. But he’s also generating a dilemma for his own argument. To generate a dilemma for Christians, he must grant Christian theological assumptions for the sake of argument.”

Granting a disagreed-with position for the sake of a hypothetical argument is pretty standard fare in argumentation, and certainly presents no dilemma for me. The ‘given’ is, after all, part of the argument.

“However, those theological assumptions include the assumption that God is trustworthy. Therefore, on Christian assumptions, it is not an unacceptable risk to procreate, even if (ex hypothesi) one of your kids will be damned. On Christian assumptions, it is never an unacceptable risk to trust God’s providential wisdom.”
This is a SUPERB example of how people can disassociate themselves from feelings of guilt for doing terrible things, simply by saying “Oh, well, God told me to do it, so it must be right.” It’s the crossroad where religion and pathology meet. Empathy short-circuited by edict.

“Crawford also assumes, without arguing the point, that children of Christians are at risk of hell. Since that’s a key assumption of his argument, he needs to argue for that assumption. As I noted in my previous reply to him, that’s not a given.”

Yeah, I did assume that, didn’t I? Naturally, I’m aware of the apologetical backflips contrived to somehow fashion a feeling that all the children of Christians are automatically saved, all without quite coming out and saying it (because, after all, that might be going TOO far). However, since this isn’t a critique of Christian doctrine, even farfetched doctrine according to most orthodox understanding of the matter, I’ll just say that if you think your children are automatically saved via the efficacy of your own salvation, my argument doesn’t apply to you. Just another example of cut-and-paste bible reading in my book, but so be it :)

“Even if Christians have a child who will go to hell, it doesn’t follow that they must be forever inconsolable. Even in this life, our feelings about our “nearest and dearest” are subject to dramatic change.”

Yes, it’s quite comforting to realize we can eventually be hardened to the knowledge of our children's suffering, isn’t it?

“It is a deprivation to miss out on the prospect of eternal bliss. That’s an incomparable lost opportunity.”

When you can demonstrate how an imaginary person can be deprived in any way that actually impacts that imaginary person, would you mind getting back to me? I’m more than curious.

UPDATE: Reading back through this, I can't help but be tickled by the utter lack of shame some of these apologists have. Or perhaps more kindly, their ability to pull pat answers out of their backsides to fit any occasion, even contradictory premises. I'm reminded of a post I wrote on my anti-apologetics blog exploring the 'why doesn't God heal amputees?' problem. Invariably, the answer from the apologists came in two parts:

1. Who says He has to?
2. Who says He doesn't?

Talk about covering your bases with a load of nothing! LOLOL! Steve of Triablogue does something similar here regarding the children of Christians who go to hell:

1. Who says they DO go to Hell?
2. Even IF they DO go to Hell, their parents will eventually come to not give a damn about it.

This is equivocation of the highest order, and is fashioned to blunt the harshness of my premise (some children of Christians will go to Hell) by hinting at THE POSSIBILITY of an escape clause, while at the same time offering (a rather lame) option for those who just can't buy the 'Christian Parent Exception' as being scriptural. Actually, the 'immunity' question is floated around quite a bit amongst Christians, for obvious reason. Everybody wants an edge, it seems, and if they have to procure it through rather imaginative exegesis, so be it :) Again, Christian parents, you'd better keep your fingers crossed.

DOUBLE UPDATE: Now that I think more about it, this 'all children of Christians are saved' means that, once one person is saved, all his progeny, and his progeny's progeny, and his progeny's progeny's progeny on down the line from 2000 years ago up to today, are one and all and without exception, Christians! I wonder how that premise holds up to analysis. Quite poorly, I'd wager.

TRIPLE UPDATE: It ALSO means that the parents of a child who dies a heathen were also always heathens themselves. Oops!