tommorris.org

Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.









If you go to the 'philosophy' tag on All Consuming, you'll find that What the Bleep Do We Know?, that creepy movie put out by the cult of J. Z. Knight (aka. "Ramtha", the psychically channelled warrior from 35,000 years previous) that spends half it's time pushing New Age nonsense and the other half getting in a right muddle with quantum mechanics, sits right next to Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Atlas Shrugged, Dan Dennett and Jean Baudrillard. Wow.


I have posted a review of Keith B. Miller's Perspectives on an Evolving Creation over at All Consuming. It's enraged, and it's got every right to be. But I think I get the point across - Miller's is a text which should be read by those most unlikely to read it, and most needing of it. It sits on liberal bookshelves like mine as a ready reference for sane, evangelical theology (no, I'm sort of serious here). It doesn't sit on the bookshelves of the people who should read it.







Singer and Animal Sex

Browsing through my referral stats today, I found that somebody had found my review of Richard Dawkins' Root of All Evil? by searching for peter singer nambla on Google. I redid the search (the FBI are gonna be after me now!) and found that my review is number two.

But it brings up a couple of nutjob websites. Before we go in to those, refamiliarise yourself with Singer's meta-ethical statement that I put in the previous post. Here it is:

"I approach each issue by seeking the solution that has the best consequences for all affected. By 'best consequences', I understand that which satisfies the most preferences, weighted in accordance with the strength of the preferences. Thus my ethical position is a form of preference-utilitarianism"

"I approach each issue by seeking the solution that has the best consequences for all affected. By 'best consequences', I understand that which satisfies the most preferences, weighted in accordance with the strength of the preferences. Thus my ethical position is a form of preference-utilitarianism"

And, while we're at it, here's some more of Singer's meta-ethics:

"I'm a Utilitarian, so I don't see the rule against lying as absolute; it's always subject to some overriding utility which may prevent its exercise."

"an action contrary to the preference of any being is, unless this preference is outweighed by contrary preferences, wrong. Killing a person who prefers to continue living is therefore wrong, other things being equal... For preference utilitarians, taking the life of a person would normally be worse than taking the life of some other being, since persons are highly future-oriented in their preferences. To kill a person is therefore, normally, to violate not just one, but a wide range of the most central and significant preferences a being can have."

"I'm a Utilitarian, so I don't see the rule against lying as absolute; it's always subject to some overriding utility which may prevent its exercise."

"an action contrary to the preference of any being is, unless this preference is outweighed by contrary preferences, wrong. Killing a person who prefers to continue living is therefore wrong, other things being equal... For preference utilitarians, taking the life of a person would normally be worse than taking the life of some other being, since persons are highly future-oriented in their preferences. To kill a person is therefore, normally, to violate not just one, but a wide range of the most central and significant preferences a being can have."

Google points us to an article by Dorothy Anne Seese called Get the Real Criminals: we haven't begun to gittem (that's Sun City, Arizona for those of you who haven't honed their American dialect radar). Ms Seese "is a Christian conservative, a part of "the greatest generation" and proud to be an American. She is striving through her writing to help this nation go back to the constitutional and moral foundations she knew in her youth".

In this article, Ms Seese draws an analogy between the death of a neglected child at the hands of their evil, perverted parents, and the "real criminals who have perpetrated this and other crimes of violence, lust and perversion on our society, because if they are allowed to continue unhindered, no child in America will be safe and no adult will dare go out without a gun in the coming years". Those criminals are, of course, liberal profesors like the aforementioned Princeton ethicist Peter Singer.

Why Singer? Because he "strongly advocates bestiality, sex with animals (as well as lifting all taboos off all sexual relations as long as no one harms the animals)". We'll ignore the logical discontinuity in the latter bracketed clause. We all make mistakes, right?

Does Singer "strongly advocate" bestiality? Well, he's written a review of a book about human-animal sexuality entitled Heavy Petting. He doesn't so much advocate it, in the sense of being a spokesman or flag-bearer of it. He describes the history of it, and then really dismisses the issue. If you accept Singer's meta-ethics (I don't accept them, but I do think a fairly convincing case can be made for them), then voluntary bestiality logically follows as a non-issue.

Voluntary sex with animals satisfies the preferences of both the animal and the human, and so there is, under Singer's meta-ethics, no case to answer for. He is not advocating it, he is dismissing it from his ethical courtroom. Seese then links to an article by one Jackie Patru. This website is a lovely feast of camp. I particularly like the statement at the top imploring God to "Bless All The Little Children", presumably because when they grow a bit older they get acne and God could never bless acne.

Patru's article, It's official: Diversity Includes Sex with Children and Sex With Animals, seems to go back to that little search query that hit my site, drawing an analogy between Peter Singer's statements about bestiality with those of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. You can judge that one for yourself, and you'll find it to be pretty ridiculous.

What you don't find with either Seese's or Patru's articles is actual reasons why Singer is incorrect - no argument is given against his meta-ethics. They doubt the statistics he use, but these are not in any way essential to his argument, even though they are used in his article.

Instead, we get rhetorical fluff about how "so-called intellectuals and liberal progressives [...] are not only attacking Christianity but dragging our nation into the mire and muck and sewage of moral filth and depravity" followed by statements about how we should look forward to "God's great Judgment Day". You know, where God, who, if his historians are accurate, has killed and savaged thousands of people, creating the category of sin, then providing the only medicine.

As a brief interlude, not everything said is bonkers. She does at least acknowledge (and posthumously tries to curry the support of) the existence of Thomas Paine, although ascribing atheism to him rather than deism.

Then back to NAMBLA and a condemnation of human sacrifice. Good, so she doesn't support the usual Republican line on capital punishment, then. "Thou shalt not kill" and all. Oh wait...

I also managed to find this amusing list of the 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. Roy Moore is screwing up America only slightly more than Michael Newdow. Both are screwing them up more than James Kopp, the guy who murdered an abortion doctor. Good old hypocrisy.

What this equation of evil people with (broadly) left-wing thinkers (and I say that as an ex-socialist, now left-wing libertarian) all comes down to is that these people don't do convention. They think the unthinkable. In Seese's statements, she seems to be saying that we ought to use this new technology in order to push old opinions around forcefully. Great. I say we ought to use the technology, and our abilities, to push the discourse in to places we would be afraid to plumb.

Love him or hate him, Peter Singer is saying things which people find unpalatable. His critics provide a knee-jerk reaction, without looking at his reasons why. As someone who sits on the fence on a lot of the things Singer writes about, here's a tip to his critics: stop waffling about America's "moral foundations" and actually look at moral foundations for proper.

Singer left a trapdoor open for his critics when he said: "I don't think there's much point in bemoaning the state of the world unless there's some way you can think of to improve it. Otherwise, don't bother writing a book; go and find a tropical island and lie in the sun."

Cut the crap about how repulsive Singer's ethic is. By making this type of argument against Singer's ethic, you don't answer the question set. Point out the flaws in Singer's arguments. This is exactly the point about Dawkins. Spend some time with religious folk and you get a lot of words, but no actual points. I saw this after the broadcast of Dawkins' first "Root of All Evil" programme. Religious people condemned it for reasons none of them wanted to actually elucidate, thus proving Dawkins right. Religious folk are condeming Singer for no reason at all, proving Singer's unwritten thesis - that Judeo-Christian morality is based on hysteria and taboo - to have some merit.

Is it because it's easier to get het up about liberal professors advocating bestiality and call people to action, than to actually look at the reasons behind them? It's far easier to say of people like Singer (or Dawkins) that they are moral monsters, luring children away to have their values aborted in a fit of atheism, utilitarianism or, worst of all, Darwinism. It's far harder to read them with an open mind.

When reading, writing and thinking about morals, one can be brought to tears because of the importance of the task. That's why we have defence mechanisms like humour and insults. If we are going to take part in this task, we need to do it properly. Singer, however repulsive some of you may find his views, does this properly. His critics don't.

On that note, now go and read Mark Oppenheimer's article Who Lives? Who Dies? The Utility of Peter Singer. It's a religious author reading Singer and actually thinking about it rather than just objecting mindlessly.





One overlooked feature of OPML.app is that because you've got a full copy of your blog on your machine, you can use all sorts of UNIX tools to spellcheck entries and other housekeeping.


I'm currently testing RMail as a method for improving syndication for the RSS-o-phobic. The FAQ says that it takes a few hours for posts to get through. I'm not going to recommend it until I can see it.