POLITICAL OPINIONS #56: THE ROLE OF THEOLOGY IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION VS. FRENCH REVOLUTION

INTRODUCTION:

For those of you who have active imaginations, attempt to picture the results of the American Revolution if the Brittish had won.  An interesting juxtaposition when compared to the current state of history and an engaging exercise for those into the whole alternative history scene. While imaging the byproduct of the United States still being under English colonial control in 2018 maybe engrossing idea to entertain, let’s stack the chips a little higher. Hypothetically, what if the American colonists emancipated themselves from colonial rule, however, their efforts devolve into divisive chaos. The idealistic principles behind the revolution failed to maintain order and a political power vacuum is created, waiting for the lurking totalitarian to seize control. For many patriotic Americans, this may parallel the dark prophecies conveyed in dystopian science fiction novels. However, the events described are actually a loose interpretation of the French Revolution.

The question becomes why was the American Revolution such a political and philosophical success and the French Revolution was such an abject failure? Historians and political commentators have a litany of hypotheses addressing this inquiry. However, one particularly interesting claim made by Conservatives was the philosophical backbone supporting both revolutions. The French people were definitely influenced by the success of the American colonists, however, their philosophical principles varied.  The French Enlightenment philosophers were well known for their criticism of religion. The philosophical core of France’s secular culture is ingrained in the country even to the present day[1]. All you need to do is read Voltaire’s Candide to really demonstrate France’s tradition of staunch secularism. France’s core unifying philosophical tenant, with little to no moral safeguards, was logic. The Conservative critics overwhelmingly attribute the failings of the French Revolution to the moral shortcoming of the French secularism.

 

In contrast, the founding fathers of the United States were much more influenced by the theological principles of Christianity. The founders of the United States were influenced by the Enlightenment philosophers of England and Scotland. While the majority of European philosophers only saw the folly in religion the English/ Scottish philosophers remained unwavering in their faith [2]. Much of the founding principles of the United States were basic in Judeo-Christian ethos and solidified by the premise of natural rights that are divinely allocated. In a sense, it was a more egalitarian inversion of the divinely decreed ” Divine Right of Kings” championed throughout Europe a few centuries prior. The principle of a divinely sanctioned equality of man certainly has the rigidity that logic and reason does not. The fungible nature of logic and reason means that you can utilize these tools to fit your agenda. In contrast, the word of God is Gospel, with little leg room for manipulation if you are an orthodox Christian. Coupling the rights of citizenhood with faith works in regards to justification as faith is not be questioned.

In an attempt to clear the air here, I feel as if I should expound upon theological biases, I may have. My theological convictions reside in a purgatorial expanse between belief and disbelief. For categorical purposes, I would proclaim myself to be an agnostic. I do have a degree of openness when it comes to exploring these ideas. I just wanted to reassure the readers that I am not slanted towards any undue praise of Christianity.  If it works as a moral framework, even if it is situationally successful, I cannot outright condemn. Particularly on the grounds of intellectual honesty.  While Christianity does have its shortcomings there are also highly positive attributes about it as a moral philosophical belief system. The atheists are also imbalanced and have the disposition to deny any positivity that can be yield from religion. I certainly feel like I am at an advantage in being able to discuss this topic because I am not beholden to a strong conviction on their side of the dichotomous divide.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION:

The events leading to the  French Revolution were complex and cannot be pinpoint as one sole cause being the harbinger of the revolt against the King. Under the reign of King Louis XVI’s involvement in the American Revolution and ostentatious spending left France in financial ruin. As a countermeasure, the king raised taxes which was met with looting and riots. The discontent with the fiscal climate in the country was only compounded by the rise in population of the non-aristocratic populace. While they the peasant class out vote the aristocracy they were stifled by the “noble veto” making their efforts for political engagement futile. They band together to form what became known as the Third Estate in an attempt to gain more political representation. On June 17th, 1789, the Third Estate convened a meeting in an indoor tennis court. The formally adopting the title of the National Assembly. The members took the  Tennis Court Oath, professing not to leave until reforms have been made to the Country’s constitution  (fiscal, judicial reforms, and the privileges of the nobility). By June 27th most of the “.. Clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles…” had joined with the National Assembly in the demonstration. King Louis XVI reluctantly complied with their demands.

 

By July of 1789, there were numerous rumors of a military coup transpiring in France among the nobility.  This rumor came to fruition on July 14, 1789, when rioters stormed the Versailles fortress in search munitions. This became the spark that started the revolution. This widespread rebellion against the French upper class became known as “The Great Fear” or “la Grande peur”. The efforts of the revolting class became recognized once the old feudalistic system was abolished on August 4th, 1789. This marked the beginning of a new Era in French History.

[3].

 

DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN:

Finally on August 26th, 1789 the National Assembly approved the Declaration of The Rights of Man. Mirroring the similar ideals as the Declaration of Independence in the United States, minus the allusions to a higher power. The document created an egalitarian overlay that provides political rights to citizens regardless of socio-economical status with 17 articles comprising the document.

Articles:

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. Nobody nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Anyone soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

[4].

The Declaration of the rights of man was a step in the right direction in regards to increased equality within France. However, it was not enough to quell the discontent of radicals such as Maximilien de Robespierre. More moderate members of the assembly were looking to establish a Constitutional Monarchy which did not sit well with individuals such as Robespierre. [3].

 

THE STREETS RAN RED WITH BLOOD:

 

The darkest period of the whole French Revolution was known by historians as the Reign of Terror. On September 5, 1793, after the revolutionary factions took over the government they enacted a campaign of terror against suspected nobles, clergymen and anyone against there misguide crusade for equality. Executions for those who impeded their cause ran rampant throughout France from Paris to the countryside. For the lower class people that were still religiously observant, there was a de-Christianization program spearheaded by Jacques Hebert. The  Committee of Public Safety headed by Robespierre held totalitarian control over the government. In a paranoid state of rage, the government limited political opponents on the left and right of the political spectrum in 1794. They suspended the of a legal defendant trial or legal assistance leaving with the jury only able to acquit or convict them. It estimated that the number of people arrested during this era was approximately 300,000, 17,000 officially executed, and 10,000 died in prison without trial. The chaos continued from the failure of the French Revolution did not fully subside until Napoleon Bonaparte took the control of the country in the late 1700’s- early 1800’s. Mr. Bonaparte may have brought order but was far from a champion of democracy and had his own lust for conquest. [5].

 

THE FAILURES OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE:

It is quite evident that the French revolutionaries were drastically opposed to religion, especially Christianity. If you look at the origins of the intellectual principles behind the revolution it is clear that the many French citizens at the time saw religion as a divisive force. [1]. Whether or not religion does engender socio-economic stratification is open for debate. What is quite salient is how the absence and lack of tolerance towards impacted the actions of the revolutionary government.  If you really examine that portion of the Reign of Terror period of French history, the religious conservatives that fault the lack of religion in the French Revolution seem to be more credible.

 

The article from the Christian publication The Christian Post did a comparative overlay between the American and French Revolutions. 2014 article demonstrates how the philosophical differences between the two can be seen as the primary reason for the variance in results. The author states how the French revolution was the philosophical appeal to the “… human assertions of truth…”. Conversely, the American revolution was based on natural law which had divine justification. The French revolution attempted to depart from the virtue of religion and misplace a twisted sense of divinity on the “ruler”. Which post-Reign of Terror ended up being the warmonger Napoleon. The value that Christianity places on the individual is what was imparted to our Constitutional rights. Emphasized protection of human rights versus veneration of the state.

[6].

 

DISCUSSION:

As a skeptic of Christianity and all other formally organized religions, I do approach the benefits of religion with a healthy amount of incredulity. However, I am not one to argue with positive outcomes. To play Devil’s advocate here (no pun intended), we cannot necessarily confirm that the causation of the corruption and collapse of the French Revolutionary government was due to a lack of religiosity. It is something that we cannot methodically replicate, therefore we can only speculate as armchair historians. I should state that the religiosity of the American revolutionaries and the French was the most salient difference between the two. While we cannot prove the causation of the chaos and disarray of post-revolution France, is likely a multitude of different factors. It should be noted that French revolutionaries never set up comparable checks and balances systems as was set up in America. Unchecked executive power will lead to tyranny.

 

I can certainly see how the philosophical framework of Christianity could lend itself to establishing a government that protects the rights of the people. Christianity is a religion that focuses on the individual. The individual possesses freewill to either go on the righteous path or to sin. Because God gave people free will us should be able to exercise our natural rights without oppressive restriction from the state. In early civilizations, the Emperors of Rome or the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt declared divinity as justification for the totalitrian rule. A kind of government authority that takes no consideration for the rights of the constituency, but the desires of the king. It has to be accepted because the king is a god. Due to Christianity’s prescriptions against false idols, it can be surmised that giving too much power to a political leader or the government is heresy.  This because Christians are to worship God not the government.  The framers of the U.S. Consitution being privy to their Christian roots knew enough to place restrictions on the state and to avoid intermarrying the government with religion. Once you combine the two,  only unsavory things can happen whether you are a Christian or not.

I know that many secularists may be under the impression that there is the too much religious influence in American government. Anyone under the impression that we live in a theocracy is being melodramatic. If anything the Christian principles of putting God above the state has protected us from tyranny in an abstract manner. As we mentioned early how in France there was not the same emphasis on checks on executive power. It can be speculated that the checks and balances are there to keep us from putting government before faith. I will not be attending church anytime soon, however, I am thankful our Founding Fathers were Christians. Not because I believe that it is a superior religion to any other. It is because I value the built-in safety guards against over-concentration of governmental authority. If it happens to be derived from a specific theological perspective, then it is merely another feather in the cap of that religion. The irony is that many American atheists owe their freedom to deny the existence of a higher power to protections provided from the ideals of Christianity.

 

 

 

 

 

Foot Notes:

[1]: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3325285.stm

[2]:https://mises.org/library/scottish-enlightenment-and-presbyterianism

[3].https://www.history.com/topics/french-revolution

[4]. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp

[5]: https://www.britannica.com/event/Reign-of-Terror

[6]: https://www.christianpost.com/news/the-american-revolution-vs-the-french-revolution-123275/

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PHILOSOPHICAL RANTS #19: A DISCOURSE ON OBJECTIVE TRUTH

DISCUSSION:

Yesterday, I found myself attempting to excogitate the concept of objective truth, an idea that I have grappled with for quite some time. While there most likely is an objectively fixed manifestation of truth, is there any degree of variance on the number of perspectives that reflect it? I am willing to accept the hypothetical notion that there is such a thing as objective truth. Even when it comes to issues concerning morality. However, I do surmise that there are divergent means of reaching the truth through various stipulations, paradigms, and methodology.  The old saying “there is more than one way to skin a cat” seems to be poignant considering the inquiry at hand.

 

Any of the diversified paths to truth may vary. However, it would not be a radical departure from the conventional means of arriving at the truth. It should be noted that the number of correct assumptions or methods are self-limiting. Limitations being predicated on the defining principles and attributes of the concept or idea that is true. Considering the limitations there are only a finite number of permutational results that do not conflict with the truth. The more removed from the defining attributes of the truth a concept is, the increased aptitude of it being false. Parenthetically there are multiple appropriate angles to see the truth. The best way to illustrate this point in a concrete manner is through mathematics. While the equations themselves are symbolic abstractions they represent what is reflected in the natural order through “written” computation.  There are various examples of several numbers being prevalent throughout human history and nature. The natural propensity towards equilibrium and symmetry are essentially a representation of balancing proportions.

 

EG.)

2+2=4,   8-4=14,  16/4= 4,   3-1+2= 4

 

The overall truth or factual expression demonstrated in the equations above is that they are all equal to the number 4. As is evident above there are several correct operational expressions that are equal to the number 4.  The computational expressions above demonstrates how they are several different correct ways to compose an equation that is equal to 4.

EG.)

2+1= 4

 

In contrast, the above equation is not a variation that is true. Due to the fact that it would be impossible by numeric logic for this equation to equal four, it has to be seen as false. In other words a radical departure from the truth. The core defining attribute of the veracity of the equation is whether or not the sum of the equation is numerical congruent with the sum.  If not, then we cannot accept it has a valid perspective of viewing the truth. It is too drastic of a deviation from the more conventional routes of reaching the number 4 by computations.  It directly conflicts with the parameters of the laws of mathematics.

 

Some individuals may argue that the examples provided above are too rudimentary to substantiate objective reality. In contrast, I would argue that it provides a preview of how some universal principles are resolute and cannot be altered by subjectivity. The fact that a quantifiable principle can be replicated and extrapolated makes an outstanding case for the existence of objective truth. Where this is most important is in the arena of morality. The ethos of our morality is the bedrock of our civilization, without it we would fall into the throes of anarchy and discord. While it is common in Post-modern circles to apply radical subjectivity in regards to morality, it’s not something to be taken frivolously. Without a cohesive moral philosophy, a myriad of reprehensible transgressions can be justified. To merely distill it down to a matter of opinion, is pernicious. If we as a society to tolerate all sorts of atrocities they will become more and more common. Ethical boundaries need to be delineated, regardless of the beliefs or internal narratives liberated by the disinhibition of the moral fluidity of Post-modern thought. The natural order has a confirmed truth with room for some variety and the same can be applied to the realm of morality as well.

POLITICAL OPINIONS#55: UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME- PROS AND CONS

INTRODUCTION:

When it comes to government-funded entitlement program there is much controversy and contention engulfing the topic. All you have to do is extrapolate the debate in regards to Universal Health Care to get a purview into the depth of discord. Similar to Universal Health Care there is a plenitude of horizontal arguments competing for substantiating veracity. Even with the diversity of economic, social, and moral considerations; most people will capitulate to our proclivity fall within one of the two dichotomous perspectives. Pro-Universal Basic Income or Anti-Universal Basic Income. The true misfortune is that with all the gears and components comprising the structure of the issue, a linear for or against argument may not be the best approach. Especially when the nuance that needs to be addressed when debating the validity of Universal Basic Income is so intricate. However, I comprehend how easy it is to surrender to our own philosophical and political biases without evaluating all the facts and joining one of the two diametrically opposing camps.

 

While our tendencies to pick one side over the other without ample analysis of the issue based on our own predispositions, we may need to overcome this fallacy of thought. Particularly when this logical fallacy is applied to Universal Basic Income. This topic becoming a serious contender for political debate is right on the horizon. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has incorporated implementing Universal Basic Income as a key pillar of his presidential campaign. Beyond Mr. Yang bringing this topic to the front door of the American political scene, other countries are have implemented UBI policies. Even if we were to completely negate the rising prevalence of Universal Basic Income in American politics, the increasing numbers of people suffering from job displacement due to certain occupations being outmoded. In the ashes of a manufacturing empire that are now known as the Rust Belt, it is critical to find solutions for the myriad of obsolete jobs. The economic and philosophical cost to the region has been dismally compounded by and correlated with the ravages of the opioid epidemic. As much as the potential benefits of Universal Basic Income can be speculated, personally I am incredulous of  UBI as a policy. While it sounds like a good policy, is it effective in the long run? No one really has any hard data with any range of historical depth to corroborate that it is an effective policy.  Without any hard evidence, how do we know that it is any more effective than putting a band-aid on cancer? My reservations extend beyond the lack of applicable results, by nature I distrust the government to effectively implement  Universal Basic Income in a manner to curtail abuse and be applied in a fiscally responsible manner.

 

WHAT IS UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME:

Before we get deep into the arguments supporting and countering the validity of Universal Basic Income, we should have an operational definition for it. It can be best defined as a regularly scheduled distribution of money that is unconditionally provided to all citizens by the government [1].  Generally, it is provided under the pretense that it will help assist with providing supplemental assistance for satisfying the costs of living.  It should be noted that this is in reference to assisting with basic essentials such as food, clothing, and shelter versus luxury expenses. There are five key attributes that define an implemented Universal basics income policy [1].

  1. Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3. Individual: it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
  4. Universal: it is paid to all, without a means test.
  5. Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.

[1].

As is evident from the list of crucial identifying attributes, there are key defining characteristics that distinguish UBI from other forms of monetary government assistance. The most notable would probably be the absence of any sort of conditions such as being under a certain income bracket or employment requirements.

 

ANDREW YANG’S PLAN:

Certainly not by happenstance, democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has quite a bit of information regarding Universal Basic income on his campaign website for the 2020 election. While I learned of Mr. Yang’s efforts to support this issue from pursuing the internet, his appearance on the Waking Up podcast hosted by Sam Harris really solidified him as a serious champion of this policy. At least in my mind.

[3].

 

However, let’s examine some of the reasons why an individual such as Mr. Yang might actually be pushing Universal Basic Income as a reasonable solution to work displacement.  Especially when you consider the number of jobs that have been outsourced abroad or have automated. Most experts tend to believe that this is a trend that will not be stifled any time soon. However, some experts would tend to assert that the displaced jobs will be filled by comparable positions, it is most likely too early to tell [4].

 

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign website claims that a third of all Americans will lose their jobs to automation in one form or another within the next 12 years [2].  Yang’s website also presents the statistics that the current labor participation rate is at 62.5 percent and that one out of five “working aged men” are currently out of work [2]. While this numbers might be to some extent concerning and it is obvious that regardless of whether automation further exacerbates this issue or not, the displaced workers still need a means of obtaining currency.  For the out of work coal miner in West Virginia, Universal Basic Income would be able to provide them with a means of being able to purchase food, clothing and other essentials.  Yang also explains due to the fact that people are having their basic needs met they can pursue a less-dangerous and more meaningful task. Going back to school taking care of family members etc [2].

 

While Andrew Yang has some of the broad benefits well defined, how does he plan on implementing this policy?  As is evident from the operational definition in the section above, there is a certain criterion that needs to be met to be considered Universal Basic Income.   A presentation of the core parameters would certainly be advantageous. Well, Yang does provide this information on the website. The parameters set on his campaign platform would entail that every U.S. Citizen ages 18 to 64 years old would be entitled to a $1000.00 check monthly. Regardless of employment status or other contingencies.  One notably stipulation is that U.S. Citizens 65 years old and older would not be eligible and would still continue to collect social security [2].  One point to exemplify is that the amount that Yang, as allocated, is clearly meant to be supplemental entitlement versus a free lunch.  I can state for the record I cannot live off of $1,000.00 a month and I am not particularly extravagant with my expenses. I would surmise that would be the case for the majority of Americans. While I am intrinsically skeptical of UBI as a policy, I can applaud Yang for not getting too extreme in regards to the amount of the monthly entitlement. However, the economic feasibility is still murky in my mind.

 

So far Yang has done a noteworthy job of presenting the finer mechanics of his implementation plan for Universal Basic Income. However, he has not addressed the most agonizing aspect of the whole policy.  Which is, how are we going to pay for it?  It is common knowledge that the United States is drowning in an exorbitant amount of debt. We are talking about trillions of dollars worth of debt.  We cannot implement such a pervasively large entitlement plan without sufficient funding. While compassion for and wanting to improve the lives of less fortunate Americans is a laudable goal, it needs to be realistic. Fiscally this country has already been crippled by nearly twenty years of warfare in abstractly defined theaters of combat and other poorly execute social and corporate welfare policies.  Well, Yang is purposing that we utilize a “VAT (Value-add tax) on goods and services produced by companies” which is considered a fair tax that is difficult for larger operations to hide [2]. Yang is looking to apply this 10 percent tax to fund this venture into UBI. Below are some of the other considerations Yang’s platform has for funding UBI:

1.  Current spending.  We currently spend between $500 and $600 billion a year on welfare programs, food stamps, disability and the like.  This reduces the cost of Universal Basic Income because people already receiving benefits would have a choice but would be ineligible to receive the full $1,000 in addition to current benefits.

2.  A VAT.  Our economy is now incredibly vast at $19 trillion, up $4 trillion in the last 10 years alone.  A VAT at half the European level would generate $800 billion in new revenue.  A VAT will become more and more important as technology improves because you cannot collect income tax from robots or software.

3.  New revenue.  Putting money into the hands of American consumers would grow the economy.  The Roosevelt Institute projected that the economy would grow by approximately $2.5 trillion and create 4.6 million new jobs.  This would generate approximately $500 – 600 billion in new revenue from economic growth and activity.

4.  We currently spend over one trillion dollars on health care, incarceration, homelessness services and the like.  We would save $100 – 200 billion as people would take better care of themselves and avoid the emergency room, jail, and the street and would generally be more functional.  Universal Basic Income would pay for itself by helping people avoid our institutions, which is when our costs shoot up.  Some studies have shown that $1 to a poor parent will result in as much as $7 in cost-savings and economic growth.”

[2].

 

While it is all well and good  Yang has done a better job of thinking through the logistical issues of implementing such a widespread entitlement program than the likes of Bernie Sanders, there are still other considerations to be addressed. This would seem to be a relatively conspicuous example, does UBI actually work?  A question that any sane taxpaying voter should be allowed to indulge when confronting a presidential candidate. Even if Yang’s means of funding this program are sound, if it is ineffective we are merely squandering taxpayer dollars for a failed pipe dream. Yang believes that he does have some hard evidence for the effective nature of UBI. However, I will be the first to point out that while there may be some that confirm the positive effect of UBI, there isn’t an abundance of longitudinal data. The few countries that have implemented such policies are still in the infant stages of noticing the impact. If there was a country that had 30 plus years of data that has been proven to be able to be replicated, I would be more apt to accept Yang’s claims of effectiveness. The website claims that there are over 461 research papers since 1998 proving the effectiveness of UBI and that it does reduce poverty without people overwhelmingly using the money for destructive means such as drugs and alcohol [2].   The lack of data presented on Yang’s website is compensated by the link provided to the studies substantiating the impact of UBI. For further reading please see below:

https://basicincome.org/research/ [5]

 

COMMON ARGUMENTS AGAINST UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME:

 

While it may seem as if am biased towards Universal Basic Income based on the bountiful amount of positive aspects provided above, nothing can be further from the truth. I am very skeptical of UBI as an effective policy, however, I am attempting to approach in an impartial manner. However, my incredulity in regards to the positive ramifications of this policy cannot be stymied by the angle presented on Mr. Yang’s campaign website.  I feel in order to intellectually honest we must also investigate the drawbacks and potential follies of Universal Basic Income as well. Much like another entity whether conceptual or material, nothing is necessarily a complete fallacy. Most well-intentioned ideas tend to exist on a spectrum of validity with vary degrees of correctness. However, the inverse is also true, regardless of the intentions, there has to be some degree of shortcomings.

 

The well-established think tank  Foundation For Economic Education is well known for propagating and defending the virtues of fiscal conservatism. Certainly, a source that I personally find to be reliable when it comes to commentary on economic policy. FEE published an article back in September 2017 addressing the three commonly verified issues concerning  UBI, in the article The Top Three Arguments Against Universal Basic Income.  The article cites a study conducted by the Roosevelt Institute demonstrating how  Universal Basic Income if implemented, is projected to expand the U.S. economy by $2.5 trillion dollars (by 2025) [6]. While this appears to be a  tremendous incentive to pursue implementation, it is merely speculation. Speculation that glosses right over any potential detriments. The first issue the article references is the overall expense of implementing such a policy. With the current operating social entitlement programs in the United States, there are barriers such as income per a household that limit the pool of recipients.  However, under a UBI policy, everyone would receive money regardless of finical circumstances [6]. It may end up being a more costly program than the current section 8 and Snap programs currently being utilized.  However, the study by the Roosevelt Institute proposes funding by either deficit spending or higher taxes, neither being an economically viable solution [6].

 

The second consideration posed in the article is the ineffective nature of government handouts. This argument is derived from the psychological principle that we lack appreciation for what we do not work for.  While this may sound like a bit of a cliche that is overused by conservatives consider some of the welfare reforms enacted by the Clinton administration.  By placing a work necessity contingency to incentivize recipients to find employment, Clinton actually increased the employment rate [6].

 

The third core argument against imposing a UBI retributive policy is that wouldn’t relinquish the welfare state. There has not been much discourse on the steps and phases for the abolishment of contemporary programs such as SNAP, WIC, etc [6]. From the standpoint of political shrewdness, it would be completely rational for the topic to be circumvented. For social entitlements such as  Social Security to be revoked, it would engender a vitriolic and visceral response from the voting public [6]. The aptitude that UBI will be a replacement program in the light of public outcry and lack of a transition plan is minuscule. It will merely be added on as other gear in the costly and monstrous U.S. welfare platform.

 

As for an emotional appeal and moralistic considerations of Universal Basic Income Andrew Yang’s argument excels. However, it lacks caution when it comes to fiscal feasibility and practical implementation.  While I am personally sympathetic to individuals who have lost jobs to automation and outsourcing, we cannot do it at the expense of the rest of the country. I certainly can comprehend the lukewarm and often regurgitated axiom of “The rich need to pay their fair share”, which is equally as haggard and sickening of a cliche as you can imagine. Almost comparable to the assumptions of the archaic  “Trickle-Down Effect”. While Yang believes that adding a 10 percent Value-add tax on goods and services will fill in the gap enough to fund this program, I personally have a few concerns. For one, I have to side with the FEE in regards to the detriment of supporting this policy through higher taxes. There are a plethora of others who would agree. According to the Tax Policy Center that “… high marginal tax rates…” discourages commerce, investments, and business growth [7].  From the stance of pure logic, this makes sense from the superficial level. What drives business is the cycle of consumers purchasing goods and services and companies producing. If consumer confidence is slighted by new taxes imposed, they will stop buying which will put production into a tailspin. Which would stunt economic growth versus affirming the assumptions of UBI proponents.

 

UNLIKELY SUPPORTERS OF UBI:

This section of the article is not so much about presenting arguments for or against Universal Basic Income. I am intending for this section as an addendum to the topic that presents some stimulating food for thought. Stereotypically we would not predict or assume that proponents of fiscal conservatism would support Universal Basic Income. During Andrew Yang’s appearance on the Waking Up, he mentions in passing how  F.A Hayek and Milton Friedman both supported UBI. I was immoderately skeptical that either man would support such a policy considering they were prominent Austrian economists. The Austrian School of Economics at its core espouses the virtues of Laissez-Faire trade and market liberalism, in other words, limited governmental authority in policy [8]. So the question which is as foreboding and lingering as a thinly veiled apparition is why would individuals who have been steadfast in nonintervention fiscal policy support UBI?  Yang’s claims appeared to be pandering towards advocates of fiscal conservatives and Libertarians, both audiences that are vehemently opposed to governmental encroachment in economic policy. To my surprise, after some quick research apparently, Yang was right, contrary to my prior assumptions both did support UBI as a valid concept.

The Atlantic article The Conservative Case for Guaranteed Basic Income references Hayek and Friedman’s support for UBI in passing. The article itself is fixated on deriving an appeal to conservatives for UBI on the basis it would curtail current welfare spending. Please note that we have already pointed out some of the faulty aspects with this argument in the previous section above. The article mentions how Hayek “endorsed” UBI before the concept was a mainstage political talking point [9]. However, the article goes a little further into Friedman’s account for the policy’s veracity.  It was detailed that “… Friedman advocated a minimum guaranteed income via a “negative income tax”.  [9].   There may be a few of you who are questioning precisely what a Negative Income Tax is.  The genesis of this concept can be traced back to  Friedman’s 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom [10].  How NIT works is it sidesteps the bureaucratic red-tape, it is “….based on the amount by which their incomes exceeded the threshold for tax liability, NIT beneficiaries would receive payments (“negative taxes”) …” [10].

 

Personally, I really revere Milton Friedman as an economist, however, I am still apprehensive about U.S. implementation of UBI.  However, there does seem to be a real deficit of real longitudinal data that corresponds to long durations of research and reproducible results. The fact that Finland, who has run the largest UBI active test in any European country cut the two-year trial short to focus on Social Security reform it noteworthy [11]. Noteworthy in the sense that it should be a glaringly conspicuous red flag, that UBI is not something to haphazardly implement. Considering the larger recipient pool and the different culture in the United States, even if UBI works in the Nordic countries, how can we be sure that those results can be extrapolated to the U.S.? What we would risk by doing so would be either further comprising our economy through deepening the dark trillion dollars plus chasm what is our deficit.  The other alternative being we increase taxes and let’s be forthright here, few Americans want that.  I certainly understand the social consequences and moral imperative to assist displaced workers.  I am not willing to put my faith and confidence in UBI, however, maybe it might be effective. All I know at this point I am very skeptical.

 

 

 

 

FOOT NOTES:

[1]. https://basicincome.org/basic-income/

[2]. https://www.yang2020.com/what-is-ubi/

[3]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhjlPyxNu_M

[4]. http://www.dpaonthenet.net/article/155867/Research-shows-that-automation-will-create-as-many-jobs-as-it-displaces.aspx

[5]. https://basicincome.org/research/

[6]. https://fee.org/articles/the-top-three-arguments-against-a-universal-basic-income/

[7]. https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-do-taxes-affect-economy-long-run

[8]. http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=Austrian-economics

[9]. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/08/why-arent-reformicons-pushing-a-guaranteed-basic-income/375600/

[10]. http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc1/NegativeIncomeTax.html

[11]. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43866700

PHILOSOPHICAL RANTS #18: REALITY AS A SIMULATION?

INTRODUCTION:

 

As human’s we often have the propensity to take a lot of things for granted. Especially when it comes to the status quo of what constitutes consensus reality. When assume the perceptual experience we encounter on a day -to-day basis as the absolute or true nature of reality with little question or forethought to the possibility of alternate cosmic permutations the true essence of reality. I am not an evolutionary biologist or evolutionary psychologist, however, I can certainly see the evolutionary advantage in passive acceptance of the state of reality in the linear sense in which we directly perceive it. As far as conventional wisdom goes, for basic it survival it may be the most efficient tool.  However, as the overall quality of life has increased in the western world we have been allotted the luxury of exploring alternate possibilities to the favored heuristic of conventional wisdom. Even with advances in quality of life most people in the western world find any premises challenging the construct of proper consensus reality to be quite jarring. Hence why in western society, there does tend to be a greater abundance of Persisting Perception Disorder engendered by hallucinogenic substances [1].  With no context for such a drastic departure from the status quo reality, it could potentially trigger psychological pathology in those pron to such category of  disorders.

 

Needless to say, it may be a bit challenging for the average modern American to contemplate the notion of alternate dimensions, realities, etc. Maybe the engrossing and immersing nature of hallucinogenic compounds is slightly too intense and abstract of a method exploring such potentials. However, we do see the potential for alternatives to consensus reality in our entertainment specifically  through the media and literature genre of Science fiction.  One such salient example would be the proliferation of the concept of reality being a simulation.  While the apogee of such a notion in our fiction based entertainment was probably the mid to late 1990’s and particularly prevalent in the Cyber-Punk sub-genre of Science fiction. Films ranging from the 1980’s cult film Tron and 1999 film  The Matrix, both explore this possibility.  The potential that everything that everything we take for granted as being objectively true passed on our interpretation of sensory input could the result of code generated by a programmer. Over the past couple of years, theorists have a referred to this as simulation theory.

 

As real as the nature of our consensus reality my seem to be and  as outlandish as the notion of simulation theory seem, there could be some validity to it. It runs into the Godel/Liar’s paradox, where we have the potential of a true statement, however, not means of validating it [2]. While we could analyze the litany of philosophers and theorists that attempt to develop an operational solidification  of the concept of reality, however, each theory has its proponents and detractors.  If we do not have an objective and proven understanding of reality we ,half-witted, saunter  right into the buzz saw.  Most people proudly do so and reject with incredulity  the alternate theories as novel concepts, but not a sober grounding for defining reality. However, isn’t it hasty and board line intellectual sloth to apply Occum’s Razor, when we have not completely unraveled the ball of yarn? I believe that we should more thoroughly exhaust the alternate theories of reality before we reject them with patronizing derision. Without solid evidence disproving simulation theory , it should still be fair game for speculation. After exploring some of the more biological aspects of human perception and understanding how much we adaptive ignore, simulation theory looks significantly less faulty.

 

REALITY AS  SIMULATION AS A PHILOSOPHICAL THEORY:

 

While the premise was originally manifested as contrived novelty for fiction nearly twenty years to it being brought to light in academia. It was not until University of Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrum postulated this outlandish possibility in 2003 [3]. Bostrum’s hypothesis encompasses the notion that an exorbitantly more advanced civilization was simply running computer generated simulations of the lives lived by their primitive ancestors [3]. The hypothesis claims that this simulated stated of reality is so pervasive that the majority of perceptions of reality are that of the projected simulations of the reality experienced by the ancestors [3]. While the theory itself may seem to be outrageously far-fetched there are a plethora of sober-minded intellectuals open to this possibility.  World renown astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson asserts that their is a fifty percent chance that this hypothesis presents the true nature of reality [3].  While Dr. Tyson is certainly a compelling figure in the arena of science, he is far from the only mainstream figure open to simulation theory. Massachusetts Institute of Technology  Cosmologist, Max Tegmark, due to the rigidity of the mathematical laws of our Universe would parallel coding that is reflected in Video Games and other computer generated media. Tegmark stated :

“If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical,”

“That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”

[3].

 

Tegmark’s perception of this hypothesis has been substantiated by University of Maryland  theoretical physicist James Gates. Gates states :

“I was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. So why were they in the equations I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry? This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”   [3].

While apprehension towards blindly accepting simulation theory as being a valid perception for the true reality of the world is understandable, we cannot discount  this possibility. As what is demonstrated  by Tegmark and Gates is that some of the idiosyncratic aspects of our natural world hint towards this possibility. If you accept the fact that there are specific mathematical theorems and equations that seem to be prevalent in the natural world (as most physicists do believe), it does seem at least on the superficial level seem as if it could be the byproduct of programming coding.  If you consider how humans have an affinity for symmetry. It is well documented that humans subconsciously seek facial and physical symmetry in copulative  partners. People also seek symmetry in regards to institutional and social situations, mean push for equality of outcome. Right or wrong from a moral or logical standpoint, the lower and middle class of the successes of the affluent upper class mirrors this natural drive for symmetry.

It would appear that in the reality that we all accept as the consensus reality we all passively accept, their is in in grained drive for symmetry. Whether in the physical manifestation of appearance or in more abstract applications. This honed focus, on congruence is analogous to what we expect from a computer application or a mechanized machine.  When faced with encoded programming there is always the rigid attempt to balance out deficits. Hence why when our computer is infected with a virus, it still attempts to function as it would normally. Considering the physical laws of nature always reverting back to cathartic homeostasis.   For example, gravity, what is physically in the air must come back to origin due to the magnetic pull of gravity with few exceptions. Which as the uncanny and unwavering bias towards symmetry and rigidity possessed by computer programming.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST SIMULATION THEORY:

Speculation is all well and good, however, there is not any hard data or any real way to test the veracity of the claims asserted by simulation theory. The genuinely hard nosed empiricists would still view such claims with an oppressive amount of derision without adequate means of proving this premise through experimental results. Anyone who has had any exposure to the scientific method, even at the undergraduate level, you are generally aware of the fact the ability to replicate results is crucial.

While on a broad and theoretically level, on paper so to speak, simulation theory does seem to fit a specific logical stream of logical. However, we need to test the veracity of this natural observations in an applicable experimental conditions. In the world of science if you are unable to test a hypothesis, you must accept it as being untrue. Essentially, we out of necessity of the pillar of the scientific method accept the null-hypothesis, which asserts that simulation theory is not the correct nature of reality.  Even if we were to apply Occam’s razor with no further analysis, we would have to reject this notion. Just on the principle that simulation theory is too implausibly convoluted and therefore most likely a faulty hypothesis. While Occam’s Razor was originally devised to keep fact and opinion starkly segregated, it is at times obtusely blind to the full range of possibilities[4]. Sometimes the true explanation is a little more complex than the simple and clean explanation scientists crave and revere.

However, regardless of the correct and incorrect aspects of the assumptions imprinted by the scientific method, it is imperative we explore the counter-arguments of simulation theory. As with any scientific hypothesis or manifesto in aesthetic art there tends to be detractors. However, within science unless there is unanimous acceptance of a tested a hypothesis , it can transition from a theory to a scientific law.  Considering there is descent we need to explore the counter claims against simulation theory.

The NPR article Why We Are Not In A Video Game- And Why It Matters from March of 2017 certainly reflects such sentiments. The article suggests that there are three main assumptions that need to hold true for simulation theory to remain true: 1.) Humans will likely never survive to reach the evolutionary “Post-human” stage, 2.) Any of the advanced “programmer” civilizations are unlikely to reflect their own evolutionary history in the simulations and 3.) There is a 99.9 percent chance we are absolutely living in a computer simulation[5]. Which in defense of the skeptics are some pretty radical claims to accept at face value.  However, given the assumptions listed above, this would mean that the previous manifestation of the human race has died out with the subsequent species succeeding would be controlling us like video game characters. This one entail for one that free will would be a complete illusion with no degree of autonomy. [5]. Also, the issue becomes if our realities are simulated how do we ascertain that the realities of our “programmers” are not simulations [5]. what happens from  there is that the whole theory devolves into a infinite subdivisions of simulated realities, however, what advanced civilization of beings are the master architects of this litany of simulated Universes?

While the precise point of genesis for the infinite spawn of simulated Universes is certainly a valid bone of contention, there are other valid arguments against this hypothesis.  For example, what precisely would be the motive of simulating the contrived realities of their long lost evolutionary ancestors? Wouldn’t they have had other means of extracting information about their past ancestors from other means? [5]. However, I suppose that they could take interest in ancient history, in a similar capacity that the perceived humans do in this simulated reality. Potentially they are history aficionados.  As much passion as there is for history in our current consensus reality, few are calling for digital  replications of the daily lives of the hominids (an evolutionary ancestor to humans). We also encounter the moral philosophical argument of if we are truly  computer generated simulations, why should we avoid descent into nihilistic self-destruction [5]. This is typically a moralistic consideration that has a significant amount of covalence and a direct relationship to the free will question. However, the question becomes whether or not this is a true perception of the nature of reality, is it a responsible idea to proliferate to the general public?

 

PER SCIENCE HOW OUR PERCEPTION OF REALITY COULD SUPPORT THIS HYPOTHESIS:

If you found the premise of  reality being a simulation to be perplexing and paradigm shattering, then this next one will really be mind-bending for you. What if I told you that our reality is merely a hallucination and that there is ample scientific evidence to substantiate  the hypothesis. Maybe the last part was slightly hyperbolic, however, is it more outlandish than simulation theory?  It can be said that  University of Sussex professor of Neuroscience Anil Seth sees  this hypothesis of as being a possibility. Professor Seth believes that the nature between reality and perception is that reality is generated by with in the brain through the interpretation of sensory input [6]. Due to the fact that the majority of human beings agree in regards to specific interpretation of sensory input that is how we derive consensus reality[6].

The common reality that is perceived by those free of perceptual disorders and psychological pathology. The reason for our brains taking such liberties with sensory input is to bring order from the dizzying array of sensory information that we perceive at any given moment [6].  Back when I was in college I took a bio-psychology course, what was emphasized was that our brains are wired through evolutionary advances to take short-cuts to more efficiently function.  If it was adaptive from  an evolutionary standpoint our bodies would adapt to it. My professor utilized the example of having photographic memory, the vast majority of people do not  have such a robust memory. Why?  As the testing as revealed, those with photographic memories tend to suffer from issues of comprehension of information. Mainly due to the fact that our brain only has so much  capacity and bandwidth to function, overloading it with detail will only hinder cognition.

However, getting back to Seth’s hypothesis, he essentially asserts that  what we perceive to be reality is merely a byproduct of our brain’s interpretation of the sensory information[6]. The byproduct may or may not be necessarily the true nature either from a visual, tactile,auditory, olfactory , or other qualities of the object, place, being, entity, etc we are interacting with. Like I was stating earlier about our evolutionary propensity for perceptual short-cuts. We are very susceptible to optical illusions and the best example I can think of is the Impressionist style of painting that was the premier emerging aesthetic of the 19th century.  The works of Claude Monet are merely broad, loose brush strokes, blotches if you will. It this becomes very salient to anyone the closer you get to the painting, you really see how most of the objects in the painting are not well defined by hard edges. But rather dissolve abstractly into the background with little fine detail. However, the further you move away  from the painting the more the forms and objects resemble those that we are perceptually familiar with. Soon the abstract blobs transform into a ship at sea fighting the bludgeoning wrath of aggressive waves and breakers. This transformation would not be possibility if  we were not predisposed to attempt to derive order from chaos, if our brain were not wired for continuity. Our susceptibility to optical illusions has profound advantages and disadvantages.

 

Many of you are probably contemplating about how this all pertains to the validity of simulation theory. That is certainly and understandable inquiry. How it relates is that if our present, baseline , consensus reality is being projected upon on us by what is generated by our brain, we in a sense do not perceive the true essence or a unfiltered account of the attributes of the world. What we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste are all projected upon us internally versus externally.  Essentially our brain is attempting to grapple with external stimuli in the most efficient manner possible.  Considering the perception that is being projected on to the world is internal, how can we truly pinpoint the true origin. Sure we have imaging technology and other means of tracking what centers in the brain are triggered by specific stimuli and input, how can we clearly delineate that is is coming from the brain versus a highly functioning illusion. If the locus of origin is internal, the byproduct can be in theory from the result of a computer generated program. If our whole world is a cohesive hallucination, how do we know for sure that continuity is not merely a built in feature of the computer program. When the counter arguments are equally as enigmatic  and  lacking  as the arguments for simulation theory we run into the same issues we do with the whole believe in a higher power issue. You really cannot prove or disprove the existence of god, nor can you simulation theory.

 

PHILOSOPHICAL APPLICABILITY OF SUCH A HYPOTHESIS:

As it seems quite evident at this point to make any definite claims about the truth of simulation theory is short-sighted and a colossal leap of faith. You can no less prove the truth or the inaccuracy of this claim in a manner analogous to the existence of God. In the face of science, I would state that we should not automatically condemn claims we cannot test. However, they need to reside in a purgatorial gap between what we define as true and what is assigned as being false. However, as you probably can piece together reality is heavily influenced by what appears from a perceptual standpoint to be the nature of reality. So figured we should probably explore some of these claims in relation to reality made by legendary philosophers. For instance renown Political Philosopher John Locke, made a distinction between the primary (sensory attributes) qualities and second qualities (the metaphysical aspects of an existing entity). That we need to determine the difference between the true nature of reality and what the superficial appearance is [7].  So from a Lockean sense the idea of a simulated reality would demonstrate the logical struggle of superficial appearance and  reality.

While there are a myriad of other philosophers that have their hypothesis in regards to perceived appearance and reality, I will provide one more example. This is due to the fact that if I were to continue I would have  enough material to write a book versus a blog entry. Also, I will provide a hint on who it will not be from, John Sartre. I have attempted to be neutral through out the majority of this blog post, however, my frustration with Post-modernism is well founded. Post-Modernism is great in the sense that it does promote the dissolving of    boundaries, which gives us wonderful hybrids such as Asian Fusion restaurants ( or other forms of cuisine which fuses recipes from multiple cultures).  So  Post-modernism has certainly disinhibited our previously contrived creative limitations. However, in my opinion over application of satire and aims to disrupt societal hierarchy through insincerity is sophomoric. It is akin to a pestilent teenager in their parent’s basement making smug and snarky commentary about a world they barely understand, with no solutions.  The Dadaism movement in art is a fine example of postmodernism, it is merely a self-indulgent exercise mocking society rather than attempting to correct it.

I digress folks, sorry about that absent-minded rant. We are going to go from the 1600’s Scottish Enlightenment all the way to Pre-Socratic Greece. Parmenides who was well known for his direct critique of the  Heraclitus and Milesian  school of philosophers [8]. He rejected their notion of that whatever has come into existence is derived from an existing entity [8]. He rejected the premise of change, whatever IS or is currently in existence cannot be taken out of existence or it never did[8]. He reasoned that change is not possible as we cannot alter the status of something that does exist to no longer or never have existed and vice versa [8]. He asserts that the nature of reality is that it cannot be altered and that it cannot be destroyed as it cannot be “uncreated”[8]. As this may appear to be a faulty game of semantics by a hard-nosed contrarian, this was the forerunner for the concept in physics the Conservation of Energy theory. Our inability to destroy or create energy [9]. How does this relate to Simulation theory, it does in the sense that if Parmenides was to be  a proponent of this premise it would be only under the grounds that the programs had a set code that could not be altered once devised.

FOOTNOTES:

[1]. https://www.dualdiagnosis.org/drug-addiction/persisting-perception-disorder/

[2]. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-goumldels-proof/

[3]. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation/

[4]. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/08/occams-razor/495332/

[5].https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/03/09/519376356/why-reality-is-not-a-video-game-and-why-it-matters

[6]. http://www.businessinsider.com/neuroscientist-explains-why-reality-hallucination-meaning-2018-3

[7]. Socrates To Sartre: A History of  Philosophy, 5th Edition, Samuel Enoch Stumpf, 1993, Page 269.

[8]. Socrates To Sartre: A History of  Philosophy, 5th Edition, Samuel Enoch Stumpf, 1993, Pages 16-17.

[9.] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/energy-can-neither-be-created-nor-destroyed/

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS#54: TORTURE AND THE TROLLEY PROBLEM

INTRODUCTION:

In comparison to the previous administration, the Trump administration is looking to loosen restrictions on torture policies of the United States government.  The president has even if gone so far to proclaim that torture is an effective form of cohesion in coping with enemy combatants [1]. I am not seeking to play America’s favorite game which maligns the commander-in-chief, but would rather analyze the ethics of governments utilizing such measures against enemy combatants, those guilty of treason, and prisoners of war. Is it ethical to use torture as a form of cohesion to obtain vital information?  If so, under what contingencies is it acceptable to implement and when is it not? Where do we draw the line? I see much more value in assessing the moral efficacy of state-sanctioned torture and if it is acceptable, where do we delineate the perimeter of moral acceptability.  It is certainly a more engaging conversation than partisan tug-of-war with each camp in their totality representing their perspective tribe.

 

While I understand the arguments against torture, I feel that it is important to address the grey area. Typically, no procedure, policy, tradition, or implementation is completely moral or immoral.  But rather exists in the spectrum of morality, nuanced by a myriad of contingencies. However, politically I can foresee the potential for civil rights violations and other overextension of authority of the state. I certainly see the noble intentions of those who suggest that the state should not be able to legally do anything private citizens can do. It is difficult to claim definite statements in regards to the morality of torture, especially when the byproduct could potentially save the lives of innocent people.  Rather than admittedly push the Pro-torture or Anti-torture paradigm, we should discuss and unpack the positive and negative consequences of torture and then weigh them in regards to the circumstances at hand. When addressing morally complex topics it is most advantageous to look at as a Venn diagram, rather than an absolutist dichotomy. A simple “yes” or “no” response is a little too obtuse to incorporate all the facts and possibilities.

 

While it is tempting to give an inclusive and resolute answer regarding a topic as visceral and divisive as torture or capital punishment, however, I would challenge most to find a more a centralist position.  While we do not want to violate civil rights, basic human decency, the Constitution,  nor give the government undue authority, we need to also acknowledge the other side of the proverbial coin. If the use of torture could save the lives of innocent people through the information extracted, then the levity of the byproduct is more apparent. It is no longer aggressive political rhetoric, but rather tangible life-saving results.  When you have the ominous and looming threat of innocent lives at risk, the stakes on the roulette wheel become much greater.  Which certainly parallels the premise of rising the anti in Poker, however, maybe the analogy of Russian Roulette may be more appropriate considering the levity of the risk.

 

MORAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST STATE SANCTIONED TORTURE:

 

Below is a list of arguments against torture from the FIACAT organization’s website, presented in a 2011 article: Arguments Against Torture. FIACAT is an international organization centered on human rights, with no governmental ties. FIACAT main focus is on relinquishing capital punishment and torture.

 

Torture – why it is not fitting for us:

- Torture destroys the victim and the perpetrator. It breaks the latter by making him sub-human and debases those who commit it.

- Every human being deserves respect. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recalls the rights and duties of all of us.

- Mankind, in order to survive on earth, must limit the extent of his violence and put a stop to certain types of destructive behavior.

- We are responsible for each other which means we must ensure full respect for our rights and the dignity of our fellow men and women.

- Torture is always evil for those involved; there is no such thing as “good” torture, nor good reasons to torture. The end does not justify the means.

- The consequences of torture remain with an individual throughout his life; his soul and his body will bear the marks of his suffering until the end of his days.

- Torture is useless and does not lead to the truth: “at best the tortured individual will tell you what you want to hear; at worst you will obtain nothing”.

- Torture does not make people talk; it makes them keep quiet.

Christian reasons for refusing torture:

- A man was created in God’s image and part of him is “sacred”. In Jesus’ name, we are called upon to protest against everything that degrades man.

- Torture is contrary to the message of love in the Gospel: whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

- Christ was tortured on the cross, but God also overcame death and raised up those who had fallen. He gives hope and strength to those who suffer and leads them to the Resurrection.

- In the gesture of the Good Samaritan, approaching the wounded man on the road, Jesus shows that love is at the heart of the alliance between God and mankind.

- We must work towards a better and more harmonious world; that means never resigning ourselves to barbarity and meanness.

- The Church of Christ has not always remained faithful to the word of the Gospel and has sometimes mistreated men and women and justified the use of torture. Today, however, Churches and Christians fight and pray for both victims and torturers in order to put an end to these inhuman practices.

- Christ calls on all men, even those who commit torture, to “change” and to convert. The love of God reaches even the hardest of hearts.

- The Gospel makes watchmen of us all.

[2].

 

I will certainly admit from a humanitarian standpoint many of these arguments against torture are very compelling.  The organization even attempts to persuade the more socially conservative among us, with justification from Christian theology to prohibit torture.  The points made in regards to the psychological well being such as “dehumanizing” the “victim” and how the harms can even traumatize the torturer. Which is logically congruent when you think about the prevalence of combat trauma/ PTSD among combat veterans. Even among operators of drone strikes have been found to be subjected to such psychological trauma, even though they are not directly in the line of fire.  In a 2011 survey, it was found that out of 840 drone operators, 48 percent suffered from some variant of “operational stress” [3]. While not precisely the same phenomena it is merely an extrapolation of the similar principle. Unless you are a psychopath or sociopath, humans are not wired to harm other people, unless it is in self-defense. Concepts such as the theory of mind, empathy, altruism, etc. are naturally occurring social tendencies that brutal warfare and torture are at odds with. Hence why many people suffering from quite a bit of cognitive dissonance when off of the battlefield or the torture facility.

 

While the psychological and physical costs of torture are certainly well documented, how can this address the hard-nosed pragmatists? Even if all of the standard humanitarian arguments and even theological arguments are inconsequential in your opinion, what would be a variable of considering for you opposing torture?  Results. The key arguments above hint towards the inaccuracy of the information extracted from the utilization of torture. One point being the individual being interrogated either refusing to speak or providing false information just to curtail or stifle the discomfort.  In other words, they are claiming that torture either makes the individual more headstrong or makes them capitulate to the adverse stimuli and tell the integrator what they want to hear. Truth certainly not being a key competent of the answer. However, is this true? The 2017 article from Psychology Today: Does Torture Work? suggests that torture, in fact, does not in regards to extracting information. One study found that detainees were 14 times more likely to give accurate information early on in the interview if rapport-based techniques are used versus torture [4]. It was even found in a 2014 Senate Select Committee report that CIA use of “enhanced torture techniques” was found to be largely ineffective methods of collecting information [5].

 

MORAL ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF TORTURE:

While many of the arguments against torture above might be extremely compelling, you may be thinking, who could you possibly argue for torture on a moral level?  Well, I have found a 2005 article from Huffington Post, written by no other than Philosopher and scientist, Sam Harris. Really ironic that the left-leaning publication let Sam publish this article, however, I do believe the political climate was a little different 13 years ago. Harris starts the article off by providing a depiction of a scenario where:

“…. a known terrorist has planted a bomb in the heart of a nearby city. He now sits in your custody. Rather than conceal his guilt, he gloats about the forthcoming explosion and the magnitude of human suffering it will cause. Given this state of affairs—in particular, given that there is still time to prevent an imminent atrocity—it seems that subjecting this unpleasant fellow to torture may be justifiable….”

[6.]

This hypothetical scenario is probably one of the most well known moral justifications for torture, known as the “Ticking bomb” case [7.].  Harris illustrates how this scenario can be applied at the micro and personal level (someone abducts your daughter) and the macro level ( the circumstance being a nuclear bomb, greater explosion radius, fallout, etc.).  [6]  When you place such contingencies on the scenario it really illustrates how it makes it less of an abstraction, but puts a real face on the situation. The more distant you are from the hypothetical example, the more foreign the ethical rationale will be. I believe that most people would drastically adjust their moral norms if their lives or the lives of their loved ones are in jeopardy. It is always easy to condemn something when you have never experienced it. When you are an armchair commentator (like myself) with no skin in the game. However, does that mean that we can devolve to utilizing the callous torture tactics glamorized in American action movies? Do we need to bring to summation Quentin Tarantino’s ultimate wet dream?  I would say if we are going to use torture we should be reasonable about the amount of force we are going to use. I would say use the minimum necessary.  Apparently, I am on the same page as Dr. Sam Harris. He condemns the transgressions of the interrogators of  Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and even postulates the concept of more humane pharmacological possibilities, even an idealistic  ” torture pill” [6].

 

There is also another argument in favor of torture The Beating Case study per the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The scenario details a situation where a  man steals a car from a Mother with her three-year-old son stops at the gas station to fill her gas tank. The mother finishes up filling up her gas tank and goes inside the store to pay for her gasoline and she accidentally left the keys in the car. Then a man steals the car with the mother’s son in the back seat, ends up abandoning the car with the three-year-old boy still in the back seat locked in the car. It is an extremely warm summer day. The boy is facing the risk of suffering from death or brain damage due to the interior heat of the car. The car thief ends up being apprehended by the police and the interrogator well aware of the physical risk the boy is facing, starts to beat the man to obtain the location of where the car was abandoned in an effort to save the boy’s life. [8] This specific scenario is similar to the “ticking bomb” case due to the fact that both are time-critical situations where the potential for loss of human life is a potential repercussion.

 

HOW THE TROLLEY PROBLEM RELATES TO TORTURE:

The Trolley Problem was a philosophical premise devised by Oxford moral philosopher Phillippa Foot in 1967. The scenario entails that you are a conductor on a runaway train you are approaching a split on the rail track. If you veer to the left, there are five men working on the tracks [9]. Which way do you go right or left? Now, let’s say the five men are single on the left side and the one man on the right is a father. Does it make it more morally just to kill the five men merely because they do not have any children? All of the moral contingencies that can be applied to this philosophical exercise/ cognitive puzzle are so numerous, I could do a whole blog entry dedicated to the Trolley problem.  However, if we know nothing more about the men and we follow the linear line of conventional wisdom, we would have to make a decision based on a harm reduction model. Which would mean minimize collateral damage by killing as few people as possible? That would mean veer right and only killing the one railroad worker. In regards to minimizing damage or losses, the same moral principle can be extrapolated to the subject of torture. While the detainee and the interrogator may be harmed in some capacity by engaging in the processes of torture, wouldn’t it at a moral level outweigh the lives saved in a time critical situation?

 

DISCUSSION:

 

Ascertaining the morality of torture is certainly a convoluted labyrinth of ethical considerations. However, the biggest inquiry to the surface based on the research for this article would be is it ethical to engage in a potentially harmful practice if it is proven to be ineffective? That genuinely rises a plethora of different questions regarding the United States using torture as a technique of extracting information. Which leads me to believe that if all the research is saying that it does not work, then the proponents of torture are merely posturing. They are merely pushing torture as a practice to make the United States look tough. An image in the minds of many hawkish proponents of foreign conflicts feel has been greatly tarnished by the previous administration. In my opinion, if torture does not work and you are merely using it to maintain a certain image, it is merely pageantry. No distinction between that and a military parade, merely the peacock displaying its feathers to us.

Even if we find it to be moral here in the United States, there are many countries throughout the world that do not have the same perspective. The Geneva Convention has a plethora of depictions of how torture is prohibited under the terms of the treaty [10]. Technically, the United States has been in violation of international law in regards to torture most likely throughout the duration of the Bush administration. So regardless of the moral imperative of it, it still is illegal under international law.  However, if it has the potential to save lives couldn’t the prospect of violating international law be justified.  If we are to use torture it should only be in dire situations where lives are at stake and should be done in the most humane manner possible. Minimum necessary force. However, we need to monitor the government’s use of such tactics make sure that it is only used when it is a necessity and to never be used against U.S. Citizens.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1.] https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-38751516/donald-trump-waterboarding-absolutely-works.

[2.] http://www.fiacat.org/arguments-against-torture

[3.] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/drone-pilots-found-to-get-stress-disorders-much-as-those-in-combat-do.html

[4.] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/slightly-blighty/201701/does-torture-work

[5.] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/we-rsquo-ve-known-for-400-years-that-torture-doesn-rsquo-t-work/

[6.]https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html

[7.]https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/#CaseStudTerrTickBomb

[8.] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/#CaseStudBeat

[9.] https://philosophynow.org/issues/116/Could_There_Be_A_Solution_To_The_Trolley_Problem

[10.] http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/rwanda/text-images/Geneva_POW.pdf

 

 

 

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS#: 53: TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN: HUCKBEE KICKED OUT OF EATERY

INTRODUCTION:

It is extremely frustrating when the majority of people seem to be missing the overall underlying principle. Especially, when it appears that the root cause of lacking comprehension appears to be unwavering partisanship. The ills of the imposed toxic tribalism is certainly a topic that is not foreign to this blog, nor is a particularly insightful observation. It is starting to become on of those topics where my point of view is already well established and it makes for a boring blog entry. It is analogous to me doing another blog post on gun control, any regular reader of my blog is already aware that I am overwhelmingly a proponent of supporting the Second Amendment. If you have been reading my blog for any duration of time, you are probably aware that I am very concerned about civility in political discourse in this country and that I fear that the Right/Left paradigm is starting to drive a wedge in the populace of this country.  As both sides drift away from the center and veer towards the more radical fringes of their respective ideological spectrum. While this observation of the correlation  between intensification of radicalism and allegiance to political party is a rather superficial and obvious observation, it is an important one to express. Especially considering the overall erosion of civility in the United States at this current moment in time.

 

The whole situation where Sarah Huckbee Sanders, Trump Administration Press Secretary, was kicked Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, clearly exemplifies  this point. However, in a less direct manner than the “punch-a-Nazi” rhetoric of late 2016 and early 2017.  Essentially what happened, I am well aware this is old news, however, essentially the owner of the Red Hen Restaurant refused service to Sanders due to the fact she works for President Donald Trump. Sanders father former Arkansas  governor Mike Huckabee proclaimed on twitter that this fit the criteria of “bigotry”. Which certainly in my opinion is slightly hyperbolic interpretation of the events that transpired.

(https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/23/politics/sarah-sanders-restaurant-kicked-out/index.html)

The establishment decision to deny service was not met without opposition as you may have been able to surmise. The restaurant has been bombarded with 1-star reviews on the restaurant review website Yelp and the owner has reportedly received death threats. However, unfortunately other unaffiliated Red Hen Restaurants have been experienced the firestorm of this incident. Essentially being mistaken as the establishment that denied service to Saunders.

(https://www.cbsnews.com/news/red-hens-everywhere-feel-ramifications-of-sanders-incident/).

 

While I can understand the poor Yelp reviews as a form of protest to some extent, however, to some extent it may veer into the realm of slander. However, slander is one thing, where I draw the line are the death threats. Because it is the precursor to use of unnecessary force. I am a free speech absolutist, however, death threats are not free speech. If anything , even if empty, merely  a boorish attempt at intimation. This certainly shows the incivility from the “tribe” of Trump supporters, however, the Democrats are not going to get off so easy in this scenario as it is evident that Maxine Waters attempted to stoke the flames of outrage with more kerosene.  Waters:

“Maxine Waters in which she called for protesters to confront Cabinet members publicly to shame them over the Trump administration’s policies.”

(http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/06/25/sarah-sanders-decries-calls-for-harassment-citing-maxine-waters-restaurant-episode.html)

Clearly a elected official calling for such aggressive action against members of the Trump cabinet really sets a poor example. She is an elected official she should  not be inciting her constituency and the general public to harass people. While she has the right to say it, it looks very poorly upon her. Also, if I lived in the district in California she represents I would be humiliated that she was representing me at the state level. There is nothing dignified or responsible about responding in such a manner. Regardless of your political views what Representative Waters did was boorish and highly irresponsible. If anything she should be trying to bring more civility to the public sphere versus continuing to deepen the chasm.

 

However, the fact that supporters on the left perceiving Sanders being prohibited from the Red Hen restaurant as a major victory, is beyond faulty. On the opposite side of the fence the level of outrage in regards to Sanders being denied service is magnified well beyond necessity. Essentially this situation was a prime example of an issue of property rights disguised as an incident of political discrimination. From any kind of objective measure, if you are honest you have to admit that both Republicans and Democrats handled this situation poorly and when it comes right down to it, this should have never been a News story. This is literally the same circumstance as the whole Masterpiece Cake shop incident in Colorado a few years back.  Essentially, the owners of the bakery chose to deny service to a homosexual couple on the grounds of religious convictions. The supreme court ended up ruling in favor of the owners of the Cake shop on the ground of religious liberty.

(https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-111_j4el.pdf)

There is legal precedent for substantiating denial of service due to religious beliefs, why can’t the same be extended when it comes to political beliefs. The owner of the business owns the legal obligations, means of production, potentially operational buildings, copyrights, etc. why can they not deny service to someone or for something they disagree with? If the owner is truly in the wrong when it comes to the rationale of denying service the market will sort it out, via privately organized boycotts and poor reviews on the internet, just to give a few examples. There would be no reason to take any further legal action in this incident.

 

What all of the angry Conservatives are clearly missing here is that this is the same principle as the Master Piece Cake shop case. The owners have the right to deny service. End of story, no further elaboration. You are a hypocrite if you supported the supreme court ruling on that case, but oppose Sanders being denied service at the Red Hen restaurant.  It is the same underlying principle, it is a property rights issue, not one of partisanship. Not at least until, Trump supports over reacted and the Democrats celebrated in undue jubilation. The democrats are also hypocritical in these circumstances due to the fact that they acted as if the apocalypse was  the horizon in regards to the whole wedding cake ruling. It feels that neither side is really looking to fight for principles or ethos but rather each other for being a member of the wrong tribe. The US versus THEM mentality  is truly poisoning the well in this country and it absolutely needs to stop.

Political Opinions #52: Conservative Perception of killing and Murder

Introduction:

 

Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading the 2012 book, Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late. Much about the authors’ ideological leanings , James Robison and Jay W. Richards, is quite conspicuous from the title. While I am a fiscal and Constitutional conservative, I am far from a social or theological conservative. Many of you are most likely pondering, why would I read this book? Well for starters, I found it at a Dollar Tree store in Chandler, AZ for $1.00, plus tax, approximately four years ago. A dollar and change for a New York  Times bestseller is one hell of a deal! However, this is not nearly as important as the necessity to diversify your exposure to different points of view on social, economic, religious, and even political issues. If you continually envelope your mind in ideas you already agree with unconditionally you be come a stagnate thinker and  live in a reverberating echo chamber of confirmation bias. This a phenomenon that is far too common in the current political climate in the United States and that is equally as flawed as not inoculating yourself against faulty and pernicious thinking patterns.  I as a religious skeptic and socially liberal individual read this book to challenge myself and to gain a better comprehension of the perspective of social conservatives.

 

For the record, this post is not about whether or not I agree with the political and religious messages conveyed in this book. What I am attempting to communicate without attribution or judgement and with good will is an observation that I found to be quite compelling. It is more an analysis  of ideological congruence than it is a debate or judgement of whether the authors are correct in their values, beliefs, and assumptions. Basically, I am exploring philosophical nuance within social and religious conservatism in the United States, above all.  However, for all the agnostics and atheists out there, please note that whether you agree with the gentlemen who authored this book or not does not give you the right to look down upon them with intellectual derision. The book was eloquently written and was not watered down to conform to the stereotypical anti-intellectual image that non-believers tend to smear on practitioners of Christian faith. Author Jay W. Richards holds a PH.D and is a senior fellow at the Discover Institute. Even if he is incorrect in placing unconditional faith in the reality of a higher power, he is far from a dumb man. Even though I disagree with him on several topics, I would still grant him full respect as an seasoned academic and a Christian intellectual.

 

The one concept that I found to be the most compelling was the book’s perspective on the line delineated between murder and killing. As well all know “Thou shall not kill” is one of the most obvious of the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament. However, many  religious conservatives are generally in favor of violent intervention abroad, gun ownership, and stand-your-ground laws.  However, they tend to immensely oppose abortion and other forms of contraceptives, viewing it as murder. The logical question becomes what separates capital punishment and war from abortion. Obviously from this political/philosophical perspective there is a deep moral chasm between one form of killing and the other. I feel that form many who do not completely  subscribe to this style of thought patterns are often at a loss of understanding where they are coming from. Wouldn’t all forms of killing, regardless of the intent be prohibited by the Bible? Also,  what precisely makes  war just and abortion sheer murder?  Without the biblical context it would appear to be a selective game of semantics gone awry. However, I can assure you that is not the intention , there is actually a biblical argument discerning such distinctions. Whether I agree with it or not is immaterial, I am merely presenting what I have learned from reading this book.

 

NATURAL GOD GIVEN RIGHTS:

 

Much of the rights granted in the United States Constitution to American Citizens is based on the concept of natural rights. During the era of the Great Enlightenment in European history, the concept of natural rights ,the rationality of egalitarian self sovereignty, and property rights manifested itself into Lockean political philosophy. Which focused on the rights and autonomy of the individual, versus being subjected to the tyrannical whims of royalty. Considering the vast majority of Enlightenment philosophers during this time were Christians, most social conservatives operate under the assumption that natural rights are analogous to be god given. This notion is reinforced by the Christian perception of free will, we are given the ability to reason. Which in turn amounts to the ability to determine right from wrong. If we such ability to rationalize and make choice therefore, our government should allow us the ability to speak freely , own property, etc.  If a higher power gave us these abilities it is only fair to have policies that protect our ability to exercise our free will without imposing on others.

 

For many of that subscribe to this  theological/ political paradigm perceive the right to live as being one of those paramount natural rights. How this intersects with the contemporary reproductive rights championed by those in the feminist movement, engenders the contemptuous controversy we observe in the pro-life / pro-choice debate.  Even many in the libertarian movement are divided on the fault lines of property rights versus the right to life. While typically this topic is too complex to distill down to such broad dichotomies due to the plethora of ethical and biological contingencies. Generally in order to discuss this topic we need to place our flag on one side of the proverbial fence.

Social conservatives such as Robinson and Richards contend that being pro-life in the abortion debate is the only just position. This point is substantiated by the fact that the word of god is greater than the law of the land.

The authors quoted the book of Romans:

“….. Let Every Person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God (Romans 13:1-6)….”

(Robison & Richards, P. 23 & 24).

 

With no surprises here, this biblical passage clearly expresses how while the government may permit that what is sinful or even contrary to natural rights, we must abide by what protects the word of god. Which would in turn be what guarantees natural rights. Which proves to be logically congruent only if you believe in a higher power. However, the  authors find the primacy of divine law to be so significant due to the fact that it is what maintains legal and cosmic order. Without rules and consequences for transgressions, we as a society or as humans cannot be stable enough to guarantee  our rights and privileges we are granted in American society. Which is part of the reason why many of our ethereal laws or man made laws tend to have a  biblical  pretext or influence. Obviously this pertains to our more basic laws involving property rights than the abstractions of tariffs and tax codes. We need to maintain legal and moral order so we can protect the way of life that we enjoy as Americans. Without any limitations we lose our natural rights to the throes of anarchy. Wanton looting, murder, etc does not exemplify absolute freedom but rather the ashes of a failed state.

(Robison & Richards, P. 17).

 

WHAT MAKES ABORTION WRONG, HOWEVER, WAR IS JUSTIFIED:

On a superficial level we could operate under the assumption that killing is wrong and is even prohibited per the bible. Naturally abortion is perceived as a moral failing in the Christian tradition.  For anyone familiar with the moral tenants of Christianity far cry from being shocking. Not so much shocking as intriguing has always been the support of Conservative Christians for capital punishment, foreign wars/ military actions, stand-your-ground laws. If someone is Pro-life wouldn’t they shun the concept of state sanctioned executions? A life is a life, right? This is where the philosophical consistency of Conservative Christians have always gotten murky for me personally. Individuals of a more cynical mindset, could say that many who oppose abortion, but champion the typical Neo-Conservative foreign policies are manipulating semantics to accommodate their ideological agenda and world view.  Personally, I feel that it is more complex than merely shape-shifting definitions for political or social gain. I feel that (especially after reading  Indivisible) that there is more philosophical nuance than diametrical and  linear understand  of the terms murder and let’s say self-defense. The moral question becomes when does the act taking a life veer into the realm of the sinister?  Again is moral question that can only be obtusely answered, if done so in absolutist terms.

 

However, the authors do address to what appears to some to be a paradoxical position for someone who is Pro-life to hold. The authors examine the stance of Progressive Christian organizations such as Sojourners, a group of hardliner pacifists. The authors expound upon how this is misguided. While the bible does preach to not murder people and to “turn the other check”, it does not directly prohibit self defense or use of force. The authors even state that the “… most conspicuous forms of cohesion are violence…” if we never use force our world would be ripe with anarchy (P. 61) Even when faced with the prospect of war the rationale behind our involvement or the criterion for a “Just war”. In a sense, do we have the moral duty to use force, would the ramification of not intervening out weigh us becoming engaged in the conflict?

(Robison & Richards P. 60-65).

 

I am personally not a fan of war, however, I am a big proponent of gun rights and stand-your-ground laws. While pacifism is a noble stance, it is not necessarily  the most pragmatic or realistic. In regards to understanding the more base aspects of the human condition, Conservatives do an excellent job not ignoring this aspect of humanity. The realist stance is not necessarily antithetical to Christianity , depending on how you interpret the bible,  but embracing the unfortunate aspects of humanity. Hence why rules and prescriptions such as the Ten Commandments exist. However, the Bible itself does not depict merely love and kindness, but also the more menacing aspects of human life. With graphic depictions of war, execution, disease, etc. It is certainly a written body of work with  its share of literary illustration of gore. If you think about it, because of the ills of human nature, it is necessary to depict use aspects  of reality, in order to be sincere. Especially when striving to be literary companion of a theological philosophy that strives to the Universal and true beacon of moral guidance.