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Michael Shermer - Science, Skepticism and Libertarianism
Posted: 03 July 2009 11:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Libertarianism is an absolutists position and is antithetical to the ethos of skepticism. Having been attracted to libertarianism by my high school economics teacher and then having read anarchist literature, libertarianism, to me, seems to be a perversion of anarchism. The mystical invisible hand and other such machinations of libertarian thought is akin to that of religion, meaning that it takes a leap of faith to accept it. That said, libertarianism, by its nature, is detrimental to the skeptic and moreover the secular movement in the U.S.

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Posted: 04 July 2009 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows.  Ron Paul would appear to fit only within a party of his dedicated followers, not any existing one which might have a “seed” in the actual runnings.  Personally, I expect the U.S. to self destruct from within any time now.

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Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful. - Seneca (ca. 4 BC –AD 65)

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Posted: 04 July 2009 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Peter-
That’s the kind of insightful analysis we’re known for as skeptics, completely agreed. I knew this one guy who said he was a ___, then I found out that this guy was kind of crazy, therefore all ____’s are crazy. Yay skepticism!
As a libertarian and a skeptic, I am a crazy absolutist who worships at the altar of the market - just like that other crazy unreasonable absolutist Libertarian, Michael Shermer.
[/sarcasm]

More so-called “skeptics” and their deep reflective analysis of the relevant issues.
When any political issue comes up, I swear people just switch off their brain and start rooting for their team. Go team Red! Go team Blue! I’m not a ____, they are crazy!

We’ve got our nutjobs in the libertarian movement, that’s for sure. So do the Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Communists. I guess it’s easier to make a sweeping statement than actually think about the issues individually. Does EVERY Republican agree with Bill O’Reilly 100% of the time? Does EVERY Democrat agree with Keith Olbermann 100% of the time? Libertarians are no different.
For those of you who haven’t already made up your mind, feel free to actually read the positions of libertarians and understand them. Then ask yourself if they make sense for you. If they don’t, advocate against them with reasoned arguments. If they do, consider that point of view more charitably.

Well, off to do more crazy absolutist things. That’s required for a libertarian you know. We MUST be super crazy and unreasonable. It’s in the club charter.

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Posted: 04 July 2009 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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The idea that politics should mix with science is plain wrong and that is what Shermer was arguing for. The idea that politics should mix with the skeptics movement is wrong also. The reason is that people tow the line of their political party.

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Dan

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Posted: 04 July 2009 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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VeggieRonin - 03 July 2009 12:04 PM

Great episode.

You would think skeptics would remember that skepticism is a method, not a position, and that they should fully investigate something before developing an opinion about it. Well, once politics comes up, people just become irrational, it seems. I would expect better from skeptics, but I’ve just too much experience with this to be surprised at this reaction. ...

Those content to sputter on about profits and evil corporations are not those reachable by DJ’s interview with Dr Shermer. But many people looking for an internally and externally consistent worldview based in science, reason, compassion for others, and individual freedom may come to appreciate this podcast and see how well libertarianism and a skeptical scientific worldview can fit together. That is, if they take the time to actually investigate the relevant positions and actually think about the issues. ...

VeggieRonin - 03 July 2009 03:47 PM

Who said everyone else was irrational?

VeggieRonin - 03 July 2009 12:04 PM

Well, once politics comes up, people just become irrational, it seems.

I don’t think libertarianism is based in science and reason any more than any other political movement. As I said before values are subjective and ultimately you can not justify them in such a way as to make them have a truth value.  You must assume maximizing the libertarian definition of liberty ought to be the way people live.  I do not agree with the fundamental axioms of libertarianism or it’s cousin objectivism (Which actually claims to be objective morality!).

I watch the news and read the paper, I have changed my political views a lot.  You basically accused everyone who disagrees with you as being irrational, and ignorant. Is it hard to believe rational people don’t agree on something subjective. I can make plenty of different arguments against libertarianism but they won’t matter because they will ultimately appeal to different values than yours.

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Dan

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Posted: 04 July 2009 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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As others have pointed out, Shermer appears oblivious to a somewhat obvious shortcoming of his philosophy: Children.
Yes, if he (or any parent) fails to properly plan for his child’s education, his child will suffer. In such a case, the child did not make a choice. The child has done nothing to deserve the consequences of such negligence. Similarly, the child of a billionaire that inherits wealth and power, has done nothing to earn that power.

The other less obvious oversight has to do with the perspective on taxes and what Shermer and others see as nothing more than a re-distribution of wealth. First of all, nearly all of our taxes in the U.S. are spent on defense and infrastructure ... not exclusive ‘redistribution’ to others. Moreover, why shouldn’t people pay for the cost of protecting their own wealth proportional to the amount of wealth they need to protect? Why shouldn’t people be paying a proportional cost of running the society that enabled them to acquire and continues to enable them to maintain such wealth? So, for example, in the United States, where roughly 20% of the population own slightly more 80% of the wealth, what could be more fair that to have the 20% be paying 80% of the taxes? That’s not redistribution of wealth. That’s paying relative to value.

Another, less obvious point, is that the society we inherit, comes in no small part as the result of people who have sacrificed their lives and livelihood for the greater good. On what basis then does anyone assume that everything they achieve in life is exclusively the result of their own productivity, and not at all enabled by the society that they have inherited? How does a society, whose existence requires the sacrifice of so many people, prevent some people from freeloading?

[ Edited: 04 July 2009 08:58 PM by Riley ]
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Posted: 04 July 2009 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Michael Shermer seemed to agree with this: We make choices and people get what they deserve.

Well sure we make choices but as a skeptic he ought to realise that the choices we make depend upon what circumstances we happen to be in and so it’s our good or bad fortune what happens to us as a result of our choices, not what we deserve.

Michael Shermer, as a skeptic, remains every bit as deluded as those he challenges.

And his particular delusion, that we have free will ( the incompatibilist variety), is far more serious than the God delusion or other various delusions.

Wake up Michael, or cut the crap about your taking a skeptical, rational view.

Stephen

[ Edited: 04 July 2009 03:09 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 04 July 2009 03:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Yeah I’m sure this will be a growing trend, as hordes of “Rugged Individualism” morons, jump ship from the GOP, because of the fetid taste left in their mouths from years of “family values”, and religious inculcation, that they finally got tired of- ohh and wow a convenient way for these bozos to latch onto the whole “skepticism thing”. Meanwhile treading onward sucking up all resources in their paths, and making “all the right choices”!
I love to witness live, as it happens, revisionism!

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Posted: 04 July 2009 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Michael Shermer and Penn Jillette are pissing off a lot of freethinkers and humanists. I think they probably know that. They’re causing this reaction because they’re trying to equate the way people should live with the objective reality of whether big foot exists. Stephen Gould once said that you can’t passively read values and morals from nature, that’s the function of the humanistic part of your mind. A lot of public policy decisions do come down to values. Ghandi thought Indian independence was more important than the stability given by British rule. I think the assurance of health care is more important than the chance of people having to wait for some services. It’s just a matter of persuading enough voters of the same view.

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Posted: 04 July 2009 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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It’s funny Humanism gets dragged into this. Somehow, along with skepticism, and Neo-World view attitudes(some of which are concurrent with entities like Libertarianism) people can latch onto Humanist as another “thing to belong to”.
I just read the posts in the coincidentally ressurected thread almost identical to this one in name and substance.
It almost seems as if elements of CFI, and any other Organizations want to broaden the definition of Humanism to include what I stated above. Loosely slung terms like ” anyone subscribing to democratic ideals” ” people concerned with the logical advancement of mankind”. etc etc…
This breeds Literatis like Shermer who can Usher in the New Humanism, and the New Skepticism.
I was always under the impression that War would be something a Humanist would not consider. Absolutely no justification, whatsoever. And yet Shermer justifies 2 completely dysfunctional wars( let alone any “altruistic war”( sarcasm))on the basis of 9-11.
How knee-jerk, how reactionary, and short sighted.
9-11 is long gone, yet these 2 wars drag on, raping the country of resources, and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent any 9-12.
I guess I’m an old school humanist. Like I said, revisionism is necessary to control minds and influence people.

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Posted: 04 July 2009 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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danlhinz - 04 July 2009 11:56 AM

You basically accused everyone who disagrees with you as being irrational, and ignorant. Is it hard to believe rational people don’t agree on something subjective. I can make plenty of different arguments against libertarianism but they won’t matter because they will ultimately appeal to different values than yours.

No, you “basically” inferred that, and I corrected you. I accused no one of anything.

You’re right about making arguments against libertarianism and us having different values - that’s what I’m calling for, individual thought and reflection and a marketplace of ideas. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As a skeptic, how could I?

Glad to see the topic moving forward in some way.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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PeterR - 03 July 2009 11:29 PM

Libertarianism is an absolutists position and is antithetical to the ethos of skepticism. Having been attracted to libertarianism by my high school economics teacher and then having read anarchist literature, libertarianism, to me, seems to be a perversion of anarchism. The mystical invisible hand and other such machinations of libertarian thought is akin to that of religion, meaning that it takes a leap of faith to accept it. That said, libertarianism, by its nature, is detrimental to the skeptic and moreover the secular movement in the U.S.

I thought the interview was nicely done, covering a lot of ground and D.J. steering things out of ramblings.

I didn’t interpret the references to libertarianism the same way as PeterR—the point was repeatedly made in the interview that “libertarianism” is not as simple as defining “atheism”; Schermer seems to be a pragmatic libertarian who is interested in minimum government intervention and maximum liberty for the individual—as is practical.

D.J. mentions some well-known skeptics who support some libertarian perspectives.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I strongly disagree with Mr. Shermer’s view that poor people are in their circumstances entirely because of the decisions they’ve made in their lives.  As a self-proclaimed skeptic, I would think that the fact that the single best predictor of one’s personal wealth is that of one’s parents’ wealth would be enough for him to reject this.  One does not prefer to be born into poor circumstances; not only because it’s unpleasant at the time, it also makes future success less likely.  It is, as Warren Buffet says, the ovarian lottery.  (a side note, Warren Buffet is HOT).

——————
Is it the greatest predictor?  If so (and it may very well be), who is to say that THAT is not a function of familial choices that actually wind up mattering?  As an individual, I believe it is my right and my duty to pass on the very best to my children and I try to do so.  Nothing burns me more (yes, as a “libertarian”) than seeing all these ridiculous social welfare programs, that take my money (meaning, ultimately, from my children) to give to others who choose not to provide for their children, or conversely, had children they could not provide for.

Cash benefits, EBT cards (food stamps), “moderately priced dwellings” (as they have in almost all ex-burbs), busing, and a host of other, sometimes obscure programs, CONTINUALLY, rob the rest of us who made good choices, not only of our OWN individual rights to our property, but robs our children to provide for other people’s children.  So what if my children do better than I did, and my “wealth” is a great predictor of such?  Obviously, many of us, like myself and my siblings, do better than our parents, who in my case were poor white southerners (who happened to have done better than their parents).  That’s part of our individual choices. 

Many people, indeed, I would argue the majority, are where they are, because of choices they personally made, or their parents did.  If you think that is wrong, then you can find a random guy on the street and pay his child support.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Then why is it ok to force me to pay for single moms and their children? 

Your argument essentially is, it’s not just the person (who was once a child), but their PARENTS’ fault.  And how can we control for so many other factors, which are taboo to mention among many secular humanists….some people (parents) have bad situations because they lack the intelligence and foresight to make better choices.  Their children not only suffer from this inability to be future-oriented, the children themselves have some of the same traits, whether inherited or learned through the personal culture of their family. 

Does anyone think that a child of welfare on average, will do better or the same as a child of an intact family where parents DON’T invest in wide-screen TVs, or homes or cars they cannot afford, but instead, college? Or small businesses?  To argue that the state should be involved in providing “for the children” to me, has no logical end.  Then provide what? for ANY child, any amount?  Is there no responsibility for the parent who had the child?  To continually point to “the children” for the sake of forced outcomes is to say we are all hostages to some random person who has a child they cannot take care of.  Again, do you want to pay Child Support for all the children in the United States? (funny how we want to hunt men down for CS, but have no problem funding thru our /income taxes, a host of programs that are Child Support by their very nature, merely paid to the mothers, in most cases). 

All the evidence, anecdotal as it may be, shows they won’t.  All the evidence shows that for example, in the Asian/Asian-American communities, better choices are made, saving money and academics are stressed, and the children are products of this.  (there are always statistical outliers, but on the whole they do well).  Should they be punished under state-sanctioned “altruism” to provide for MY children if I decide that studying isn’t that important, but instead, shuttling my kids off to the mall every other night, buying them cell phones at age 14, and teaching them that “esteem” is the most important thing?

The world doesn’t work that way, and the new arrivals to the US prove it, just as many of our ancestors who thrived in the US prior to the social welfare state (in ALL it’s various forms).

[ Edited: 05 July 2009 02:02 PM by UlsterScots432 ]
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“It’s a free country; I wish it weren’t, but it’s a free country.” when speaking of a rally on the Capitol.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Ulster Scots, didn’t you say that you worked for some Civic entity? State, or federal? Law Enforcement? Investigations?
I hate having to pay my taxes knowing lot’s of the money is going to that Bloated Trough you feed from.
In fact, I know my money is going to better serve a mother and her child, than to keep dumping billions into the Giant, overlapping, redundant, pork-filled, Law Enforcement/Justice complex.
Of course, if all off the social welfare was cut-off, that would probably be more reason to justify The Police State, as crime would surely sky-rocket.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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sure do !  And I agree, and that is why I work for one (of the many) that specifically target “waste, fraud and abuse”.  Certainly not perfect, and I cringe sometimes at the things I see, and I also happen to believe a lot of what goes on in law enforcement (and it’s sometimes ugly sister, the court system) is complete bullshit. 

Are we in agreement that it is time to END THE DRUG WAR?  Are we in agreement to STOP ENFORCING seat belt laws? Are we in agreement that unless someone is defrauding someone, or committing an act of violence, the “state” really shouldn’t be involved in our lives?

Can we then agree that you have no desire to pay for my children’s education? Medical coverage?  And that you vehemently refuse to pay my internet/cable bill each month? 

While we are at it, let’s get rid of corporate welfare, EBT cards, Headstart, and “DARE”.  I’m all for it brother !

Or….do you perhaps disagree?  Ok, here’s what we can do, you can get out your checkbook and stroke a check to support those single moms and all those poor children, or those poor companies that need bail-outs, etc.

Sound like a plan?  You can do with your money as you wish, and I will do as I wish.  You can smoke all the pot in your home or at your bilingual job, that your gay boss owns, and take care of your children…and the state can stay the fuck out of it all ! 

So what was anyone’s problem with libertarianism?  What is it liberals really want from us?  I know what conservatives want, our SOULS smile.  Our “morality”, our eternity… good morals and all that stuff.  What do liberals actually want?  Because whatever you want, you can have it, just do it voluntarily, is all I ask, and leave me out of it.

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