Archive for September, 2010

On the Newest Schism

by Jason Stotts

I find it sad and disheartening for the Objectivist movement that schisms are so common that we must name then and specify which we are talking about.

I’ve been trying to stay out of the McCaskey v. Peikoff dispute as much as I can, and I am still reserving judgment until more evidence comes to light, but things are starting to get rather ridiculous.  The newest, and crudest, thing to come to light, and the final straw for me is Tore Boeckmann’s dishonest new Facebook note “A Tale of Two Warnings”

The full text of which is:

A Warning from The State Science Institute

“The State Science Institute,” he said quietly, when they were alone in her office, “has issued a statement warning people against the use of Rearden Metal.” . . .

“What did they say?”

“Dagny, they didn’t say it! . . . They haven’t really said it, yet it’s there—and it isn’t. That’s what’s monstrous about it.” . . .

“What did they say, Eddie?”

“They . . . You’d have to read it.” He pointed to the newspaper he had left on her desk. “They haven’t said that Rearden Metal is bad. They haven’t said that it’s unsafe. What they’ve done is . . .” His hands spread and dropped in a gesture of futility.

She saw at a glance what they had done. She saw the sentences: “It may be possible that after a period of heavy usage, a sudden fissure may appear, though the length of this period cannot be predicted . . . . The possibility of a molecular reaction, at present unknown, cannot be entirely discounted. . . . Although the tensile strength of the metal is obviously demonstrable, certain questions in regard to its behavior under unusual stress are not to be ruled out. . . . Although there is no evidence to support the contention that the use of the metal should be prohibited, a further study of its properties would be of value.”

(Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Part I, Chapter VII)

A Warning from Dr. John P. McCaskey

“Readers of the book [The Logical Leap] should be aware that the historical accounts presented here often differ from those given by academic researchers working on the history of science and often by the scientists themselves. . . .

“This [the author’s account] is not the story other scholars have found in Newton’s writings. They have concluded the following instead. . . .

“Most scholars find the process of scientific progress less linear than Harriman indicates and much more iterative and spiral.

“I cannot say that the conventional narratives (or my own) are all correct and Harriman’s all wrong–certainly they are not–nor do I want to say how any inaccuracies would affect the theory of induction presented in The Logical Leap. I merely want to alert readers unfamiliar with the field that Harriman’s narratives are often not the ones accepted by other scholars . . .

“The theory of induction proposed here is potentially seminal; a theory that grounds inductive inference in concept-formation is welcome indeed. But the theory is still inchoate. If it is to be widely adopted, it will need to be better reconciled with the historical record as the theory gets fleshed out and refined.”

(Three-star [of a possible five] Amazon review of David Harriman’s The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics)

I, of course, had to comment:

Look, I’m not trying to take sides here, but your little analogy here is dishonestly unfair. You omit all the substance from McCaskey’s review and then call it insubstantial. This is from that same review:

“This is not, however, the account that Galileo himself gives. Harriman writes, “Imagine that he attempted to drop the lead or oak balls through water instead of air . . . . The result would not have led to any important discovery.” But in the Discorsi Galileo presents the difference between dropping balls through air and dropping them through water as the very heart of his discovery. (Day One, 8:110-116). He begins by recounting a report of the tower experiment but does not consider it sufficient to establish the law. He instead explains that we must consider air as a medium and compare what happens in other mediums, such as water and mercury. He notes that heavier things (ones heavy enough not to float) do land at different times and the difference is bigger the higher the resistance of the medium. In water the difference is higher than in air; in mercury, the difference even higher. Galileo extrapolates and concludes that in a medium that offered no resistance, there would be no difference in speed of fall and all objects would hit at the same time. Galileo claimed that comparing the dropping of objects in air, in water, and in mercury is exactly what justifies his discovery, contra Harriman’s claim.” (Link)

Boeckmann dishonestly accuses McCaskey of failing to have any substance to his claim, after he ommitted all of the substance!  Of course, my comment was immediately removed and replaced with this:

When the truth becomes an insult, let me be insulting!  My highest allegiance will always be to the truth and damn the feelings that get hurt in the way!

Of course, Boeckmann has already unfriended me, and perhaps more shall do so as a result of this post, but we need to remember what we are talking about.  We’re talking about the truth.  We are talking about issues of integrity and intellectual honesty.  Boechmann is clearly being intellectually dishonest in his comparison and purposefully ommitting crucial details in order to do so.

While I’m still reserving judgment in the original dispute until more evidence comes to light, it seems to me that McCaskey was only trying to help make The Logical Leap into a better book.  His review is amazingly reserved and the care with which he tried not to offend anyone is obvious.  It’s important to note that McCaskey’s only objections are to how Harriman presents the history of the science, not with his theory of induction.  Indeed, it seems that McCaskey was right to worry as he presents evidence that Harriman distorted the history in order to make it consistent with his thesis.  This makes him look intellectually dishonest and may disgrace what is a perfectly true and very good new theory of induction.  This is McCaskey’s worry and it seems to me that he was only trying to help.

On Changes to Effect a Better Government

by Jason Stotts

Here are some ideas I have to improve our government and reign in the rapidly expanding push towards tyranny.  Comments are welcome.

Laws

1. Elaborate the bill of rights to protect US citizens against all levels of government; that is, incorporate these rights.  Tyranny at any level is unacceptable.

2. A new law such that any legislator who proposes a law in contradiction to the Constitution or Bill of Rights shall be removed from office.  Furthermore, said politician will be henceforth ineligible to run for any public office and his seat, in whatever legislature, will be forfeit for a period of 10 years, depriving his constituent of their representation and giving them further incentive to monitor their politicians.  Such judgment shall be made by the Supreme Court corresponding to the level of the legislature, based on the formal objection by any politician or by a private citizen who would be harmed by the law.

3. Elaboration in the Bill of Rights that the function of government is to protect the rights of its citizenry and, as such, the government is a servant of the people.  Thus, any power that is not absolutely necessary to ensure the lives and rights of its citizenry, and which is explicitly named, is retained by the people. (Make the 9th amendment more explicit.)

4. New law outlawing pressure groups and all attempts to sway a politician by means of money, goods, or other benefits.  Such action, by any person, will be considered bribery and sedition, and shall be dealt with in the harshest possible way by the Judiciary.  Any politician found to have accepted such benefits in order to sway his or her vote shall be guilty of Treason, a capital offense.

5. No law may be passed that selectively benefits any group or subset of citizens.  All laws must be equally applicable to all citizens, since all citizens are equal before the law.

6. No person shall be enriched at the expense of another.

7. Taxes shall only be collected on property and sales, since it is necessary that the government has a hand in protecting property and enforcing contracts.  No taxes upon a person or his income are permissible.

8. No law shall be passed that makes any action or speech a crime where there is no victim.

Politics

1. The voting record of all politicians must be made publically available.  Further, said record must be displayed at each place of voting at each election, such that a politician’s constituents can see whether their representatives are being truthful.

2. The wage and benefits of all legislatures shall be indexed according to the average income and benefits of their constituents.  Further, no legislature shall have the authority to raise or lower this amount.

3. Campaign promises by politicians shall be considered contracts with their constituents and failure to live up to this contract will result in ineligibility to ever again run for any public office.

Government and Economics

1. The government, at all levels, shall have no hand in economics, except to enforce laws protecting the rights of citizens engaged in economic activity.

2. The government shall consist of only those departments necessary to fulfill their role of protecting the rights and lives of its citizenry.  All other functions are closed to it and must be fulfilled by private enterprise.

3. Neither money, nor aid, shall be given to a foreign country that is not an ally.

4. No money or aid may be given to any foreign country, except to allies in times of war, when the US is in debt to any foreign country.

5. No citizen shall pay a rate of tax higher than any other citizen, each shall contribute at the same rate and receive the same protection.

6. A class of residents shall be created to include all persons living in the country that are not US citizens and rights shall also be accorded to these persons, although not at the expense of the citizenry.

7. The government will not restrict trade in any way and shall act to ensure the sanctity of contracts.

Military

1. The US shall not enter into any military conflict unless her interests are threatened; that is, the United States will never initiate war with another country.  This does not mean that the US will shy from first strike, but that the US has nothing to gain from engaging in military conquest and only the lives of its citizens to lose.

2. In any military engagement, the United States will act with the maximum amount of force available to it to end the engagement as quickly as possible and with a minimum loss of the lives of US Citizens, including its military personnel.

3. In any military engagement, the US shall accept no less than unconditional surrender of the foreign government and execution of all leaders instigating the violence.

4. No US Citizen or Soldier shall ever be put in harms way for the benefit of a non-US citizen.

Florida Ban on Homosexual Adoption Overturned

by Jason Stotts

In another of what is turning out to be a growing wave of wins for our homosexual friends, a Florida Appellate court overturned the state’s ban on homosexuals adopting children.  This decision will, of course, be appealed and end up at the state supreme court, but for now gays in florida will share the same rights that heterosexuals have when it comes to adopting children.  What?  Aren’t all US citizens already guarenteed equal protection by an amendment to our Constitution?  No, I don’t think that applies to the gays…

​This morning, an appeals court in Miami declared Florida’s three-decade old ban on gays adopting children unconstitutional in a unanimous decision.

“Given a total ban on adoption by homosexual persons, one might expect that this reflected a legislative judgment that homosexual persons are, as a group, unfit to be parents,” the court wrote. “No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument.”

The case centered on a North Miami man named Frank Martin Gill, who, along with his partner, adopted two children in 2009 after caring for them as a foster parent for seven years. (via Miami NewTimes)

Cuba to Begin Privitization

by Jason Stotts

The Guardian is reporting that Cuba is set to cut 1,000,000 government jobs in the coming year, with 500,000 government jobs eliminated by March.

Cuba has announced it will lay off more than a million state employees in a sweeping privatisation drive that will transform the island’s socialist economy.

Authorities said layoffs would begin immediately amid loosened controls on private enterprise which, it is hoped, will kickstart the private sector and create new jobs for former public workers.

So, while the US descends into the irrationality of socialism, traditionally socialist countries like the UK and Cuba are both moving away from socialism towards freedom and respect for individual rights.  This goes to show that in the end reality cannot be circumvented by wishing that things could be otherwise: there are economic facts that are immutable and no matter how “compassionate” one wants to be, only capitalism and a complete respect for individual rights can ever be viable as a socioeconomic model.

I want to point out that this means that we are winning.  Slowly, but surely, we are turning the tide against irrationality and the world is moving towards capitalism and freedom.  This is why we must continue to fight here in the US: in the end, good ideas will overcome the bad.  Ideas move the world and if we can continue to influence the intellectual zeitgeist, we can move the world.  So, let’s enjoy this small victory and head back into the fray energized that the world is changing and we are leaders in that change.

Diagram of Non-Monogamy

by Jason Stotts

I found this interesting diagram that attempts to putt all of the different kinds of non-monogamous relationships into perspective.  I’m not sure it precisely captures all of the ways in which relationships can be had, but it certainly gives it a good go.  Click on the map for the full size version.

When Philosophers Do Sports

by Jason Stotts

It’s funny because it’s true.

Transcript:

Sam Donaldson Voice-over: It’s “George F. Will’s Sports Machine”, the sports trivia show for the real fan. And now, here’s your quizmaster, syndicated columnist, George F. Will.

[ cut to game studio, with an audience of die-hard sports fans cheering, as George F Will enters ]

George F. Will: Good evening. “Sports, say the ancient Greeks, is morally serious because mankind’s noblest aim, is the loving contemplation of worthy things.” That’s an excerpt from my new book on baseball entitled.. [ holds up book ] “Men at Work”, and I’d say it’s particularly a propos in light of today’s Expo-Padre game. [ audience issues a blank, sluggish stare ] Joining me today are two gentlemen who would no doubt agree. First, former slugger for the Philadelphia Phillies, Mike Schmidt. Good day, Mike. Tell us, what do you miss most since retiring from baseball last year?

Mike Schmidt: Well, George, I guess I miss going to the ballpark every day.

George F. Will: Ah yes, ballparks. In humanity there exists a vestigial memory of an enclosed green space as a place of freedom or play.

Mike Schmidt: [ confused ] Yeah. I guess.

George F. Will: Excellent. Competing with Mr. Schmidt today is skillful practitioner of the managerial arts – from the Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda. Salutations, Tommy.

Tommy Lasorda: [ slaps his stomach ] Good to see you, George. I’m ready to play!

George F. Will: Well, the manager’s role is one of both hector and helper, naysayer and nexus. Around his circumference lies the full measure of the game.

Tommy Lasorda: I.. uh.. well, I’m ready to play!

George F. Will: Very well. Let us engage the sports machine. Gentlemen, as always, the questions will focus exclusively on baseball, the only game that transcends the boundary between fury and repose. All right, hands on buzzers. [ he hits several buttons on the machine, which spits out a quiz card that George reads ] “The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. For $50, identify the effect of that symmetry.”

[ the contestants stare cluelessly, as the buzzer sounds ]

George F. Will: Sorry. The answer is: “The exhilarating tension between being and becoming.” Being and becoming. Next question: [ hits several buttons, dispensing another card ] “In 1954, Willie Mays, in an emphatic stroke of Byzantine whimsy, made his over-the-shoulder catch off of Vic Wertz. What was it not unlike?” [ no answers ] Take it? Anyone?

Mike Schmidt: The.. uh.. the catch in Cincinnati that.. [ buzzer sounds ]

George F. Will: Sorry. “It was not unlike watching Atlantis rise again from the sea, the bones of its kings new-covered with flesh.” [ audience members stare blankly in awe ] Well, gentlemen, no score as of yet, but the night is young. Perhaps what you gentlemen need is a little incentive, so here to tell you about today’s prizes is our own Sam Donaldson.

Sam Donaldson: Thank you, George. Thank you. Today’s winner will receive a copy of Roget’s Expanded Thesaurus. [ holds up book, singing ] “Buy me a Roget’s and crackerjacks, I don’t care if I never come back. And they’ll also receive.. [ holds prize up ] ..Chocowhip, chocolate-flavored whip topping. It’s sweet and fluffy. Mmmm, Chocowhip!

George F. Will: Sam, isn’t it somewhat of a given that a whip topping would be sweet and fluffy?

Sam Donaldson: Oh, come off it, George! You can’t see the forest for the trees!

George F. Will: We’ll continue this spirited discussion later. As for now, it’s time we moved on to the Big Board. And the categories are: “Baseball as Narrative”, “Aristotle and Comiskey”, “Joyce Carol Oates”, “Left Field: Myth or Monopeia?”, “Pitch Patch Potch”, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, and “Pot Luck”. Mike, choose a category.

Mike Schmidt: [ contemplating ] Uh.. “Pot Luck”.

George F. Will: Very well. [ $100 card under category is removed, revealing question ] “Like freedom, baseball is that stake where energy and order merge, and all complexity is purified into a simple coherence.” Piffle, or not piffle?

Mike Schmidt: Uh.. piffle.

[ bell sounds ]

George F. Will: That is correct, it’s absolute piffle. It’s baseball’s complexity, not its purity, that instills in us our freedom, and you have $100.

Tommy Lasorda: Hey, wait a minute! What’s this piffle crap? What kind of question is that?

George F. Will: I’m sorry, Tommy, but this is not a forum here for debating the merits..

Tommy Lasorda: Oh, no, no, this isn’t a joke. I’m playing for a bunch of kids in the hospital, you’re making me look like a chump!

Mike Schmidt: I feel kind of stupid too!

George F. Will: Everything in good time, gentlemen. We certainly need to..

Tommy Lasorda: Let me ask you something: you ever play baseball?

George F. Will: If, by play, you mean drink deep the aura of the game, then..

Tommy Lasorda: No no, I mean play the game.. in the field.. in the field. Here. [takes out a baseball and throws it to George ] Throw this ball.

George F. Will: I’m sorry, Mr. Lasorda, but my duties as quizmaster compel me to move the game along.

Sam Donaldson: Throw the ball, George! Throw the ball.

George F. Will: Shut up, Sam! Now then, next question. Mike, you have control of the board..

Mike Schmidt: Throw the ball! Come on, throw the ball!

Tommy Lasorda: Throw the ball! Throw the ball!

[ audience joins in chants of “Throw the ball!”, as George, confusedly, tries to think of what to do. Overcome by the crowd, he releases the ball weakly, landing only a few feet in front of him. Everyone laughs, and George, embarrassed, breaks into a weak run and leaves the studio. ]

Sam Donaldson: [ pointing ] He’s getting away!

[ Tommy Lasorda and Mike Schmidt chase George, leaving Studio 8H and running into the hallway. They pass actual photos of the “SNL” cast members as they leave. Superimposed title and music plays. ]

Sam Donaldson Voice-over: That’s all for today’s “Sport’s Machine” this week. Good night.

[ fade out ]

Playing Doctor

by Jason Stotts

Dr. Marty Klein has a really interesting new post on his blog called “‘Catching’ Your Children Playing Doctor.

An ongoing patient comes in yesterday and wants my advice: she says she caught her 5-year-old playing doctor with her pal Jenny. Mom’s arrival apparently broke up whatever they were doing, but mom wants to know what to do now.

The word “caught” caught my ear.

Although many people are uncomfortable with children and sexuality, we must remember that humans have sexed bodies from the moment they are born to the moment they die.  Children are naturally sexual and they are curious about their sexuality.  Exploring their bodies and wanting to learn the differences between bodies is perfectly natural and is something that everyone must go through.  As parents, you can help your child do this in a positive way or you can attempt to shame them into pretending that they are not going to follow the normal course of human development.  Either way, as a parent your actions will have long lasting effects on your child and you should carefully consider the outcome of your actions.