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Everything posted by Marat

  1. It is often said that depression is caused just by a chemical imbalance in the brain, so all we have to do is drug ourselves to restore the imbalance to the proper level, and we should be fine. But the problem with this is that depression is highly correlated with adverse life events, and there is no reason why people who have suffered 'depressing' events in their life should also just happen to be the same people who have a chemical imbalance in the brain. If we assume that the depressing life events cause the chemical imbalance, then the chemical imbalance is no longer the ultimate cause, but just the effect of the life event, just the way moping about is caused by sad events in one's life. Correlations can be drawn in highly misleading ways. For example, seeing an objectively real apple in the world may cause in my brain a representation of that experience in the form of an 'apple representation chemical.' We have to assume that there is always some physical correlate of any psychological experience if we are not to rely on unscientific hypotheses like the notion that experiences are represented and stored in the 'soul' but not in any physical form. But the fact that there is a distinctive chemical change in my brain in response to seeing an apple does not mean that apples are just a chemical state of the brain. On the contrary, the apple is something real in the outside world, and its representation in a different form (a brain chemical rather than a physical object) does nothing to make it 'just a chemical in the brain.' The same is true of depression: The fact that feeling sad may cause a chemical change in the brain does not mean that the feeling is nothing but a chemical, or that the chemical is its cause. A distinction used to be drawn between short-term, reactive depression in response to a negative experience in life, which was said to be a normal, non-pathological reaction to what had happened. A long-term depression was assumed to be an abnormal, pathological state. But no one ever seemed willing to deal with the problem of a real world, objective problem which endures forever for the patient, or which constantly and varies or worsens, so the patient cannot adjust to it. Is the patient's depression then a normal, reactive depression to what is objectively happening in the world, or is it an abnormal response because it is not short-term? Chronic illnesses; bereavements for people who because of age or circumstance cannot form new, equivalent attachments; or the many inescapable dead-ends and traps that the complexities of modern life creates can all cause enduring and constantly worsening sources of depressive mood in the objective world.
  2. Actually a fistula access for dialysis is not necessary, since a central-line catheter will do just as well. While needling via a fistula is extremely painful, and patients report that local anesthetic does not help much, a central-line catheter is completely painless. Fistulas tend to break down over time, so painful 'mapping' procedures are necessary to assess their patency and blood flow rates. They often have to be reconstructed, which is also a painful surgical process. Sometimes they fail to work from the outset, and so have to be constructed again. The patient has to do demanding exercises to get the fistulas to work, and the access requires about six weeks to mature before it is ready. In contrast, a central catheter is ready to use right after it is inserted. The reason why fistulas are preferred is that catheters are slightly more prone to infection, and the patients have to be careful not to get them wet. However, with some care in avoiding infection, they can last much longer and work much better than fistulas. Still, because nephrologists tend not to be able to appreciate how much pain and inconvenience patients go through with fistulas, most refuse even to permit the option of central line catheters. I have witnessed patients even refuse to continue dialysis from the pain of fistula needling, so you could even say that fistulas indirectly cause a certain percentage of patients to die. You would think that the reasons for preferring catheters would be clear, but in the highly resigned, depressive, defeatist atmosphere of renal dialysis, lots of practices prevail which would not be conceivable in more sane environments. For those considering nephrology, I would recommend internal medicine as a specialization instead, since at least some cases there are successful.
  3. Efforts to ameliorate or cure type 1 diabetes by transplanting either the entire pancreas or the functional units of the pancreas, the beta cell islets, have had little success due to their destruction either by normal immunity or by the same autoimmune response in the patient which caused diabetes in the first place. Also, with about 800,000 type 1 diabetics in the U.S. and only about 5000 cadavers becoming available for organ harvesting each year, the donor supply could never make any difference in the disease epidemiologically. A major alternative to this approach has been to transplant animal pancreas islets encasuled in a differentially permeable membrane which allows insulin to escape but which blocks the entrance of immunologically active cells. However, a decisive problem with this alternative is that the islets within the capsule rapidly decline in function and die because they are not revascularized by the host's body from outside the capsule. My question is: Would it be possible in principle to permit the host's body to revascularize the islets within the capsule, or would that disrupt the encapsulation barrier too severely or destroy the islets through vascular-based immunity? Any advice would be appreciated.
  4. Marat

    Human Rights

    The position of Kant and other idealists would hold that rights can be derived a priori, ideally but not empirically, from an analysis of the type of characteristics that would have to be possessed by people in order for them to be morally significant. So all these questions about who sets up the rights system we have, whether it can be made empirically effective, who gets to make decisions about rights, etc., make about as much sense with respect to the ideal system of rights as questions about how can we teach logic, how can people use it, and how can society accept it would make for the validity of an axiomatized system of mathematical logic. If it has trouble becoming effective in the real world, too bad for the real world. Similarly, if people get their system of rights wrong, they should look back to the Kantian derivation and check where they went wrong. However, that attitude doesn't mean that your question lacks validity, since rights are clearly designed to have real social significance. A major force in the philosophy of law today, the Critical Legal Studies movment, argues that the basic design of rights and duties in society is abusive and oppressive, since it defines certain claims and interests out of existence right at the outset. But a counter-argument would be to note that society seems to accept the system of rights we now have, since it hasn't revolted against it, so this tacit consent gives it validity. Also, because rights are formal principles, they can't reliably operate to the consistent benefit of one group or individual over another, so they have an inherent fairness. For example, the legal rule of 'aude alterem partem' -- both parties must be heard (before a neutral adjudicator), seems too formal ever to operate prejudicially against anyone. Similarly, a rule like 'ubi jus, ibi rem,' where there is a right there must be a remedy, will sometimes work for the rich and powerful and sometimes against them, sometimes for men, sometimes for women, occasionally for whites, at other times for blacks, etc. There have been attempts to define war as so immoral that no state has a right to go to war other than for purposes of self-defense against a genuine is imminent attack, but the 'Bush Doctrine' argued that in an age of weapons of mass destruction, imminent threats could be so lethal that countries have to have a broad right to make pre-emptive strikes under all sorts of excuses. There are also now principles of international law described as 'ius in bello,' or law in war, which describe internationally agreed upon rules for conducting war, taking prisoners, administering conquered terroritory, etc. Unfortunately, these are almost always violated, or sometimes prove impossible to observe because of technological advances or unique political situations. Thus it used to be a rule of war that the conquering power had to administer the conquered state domestically according to the local laws in force at the time of the conquest, so this would have compelled the Allies in 1945 to continue the Holocaust, which would have been absurd. Yet technically, because they did not enforce the anti-Jewish laws, they were in violation of international law.
  5. I think the basic flaw with your theory is that sexual researchers have found that women tend to become more sexually interested as they age, up until menopause, because as they have more sexual experience, they become more relaxed about it and can enjoy it more. This is probably because their real experience of the ordinary, biological pleasure that human sexual experience actually is helps them overcome all the artificial, metaphysical terror society has built into women about sex being a toxic and sacred thing, which can only be safely endured under the restrictions of monogamny or romance to detoxify it. But this finding of a female sexual peak interest from the late 30s to mid-40s undermines your hypothesis, since it appears either that the operant conditioning of the woman has been largely positive, or that even if the actual stimulus-response conditioning has been less than satisfactory, the removal of social inhibitions has been of greater importance. In humans, because they are so social, it is difficult to confine the variables for testing in operant conditioning experiments as well as you can in animals. On a more biological level, the basic disposition of women toward sexual interest is the amount of testosterone they have, since testosterone is essentially a pro-sex hormone, just as estrogen is an anti-sex hormone. The reason why women don't want sex at all during the time around pregnancy and lactation -- and this is an evolutionary benefit -- is that their estrogen levels are simply too high. As women age, their ratio of estrogen to testosterone declines (thus the older woman with a deeper voice, a moustache, and the beginnings of male pattern baldness in 'widows' peaks'), so their sexual interest, ironically, increases. This is also why ordinary society regards a woman with a low, sultry voice as sexy, since empirical observation of the effects of higher testosterone levels has received expression in this folk wisdom.
  6. Marat

    Human Rights

    This thread got off on the wrong foot by worrying about who first creates human rights, and then wondering whether the impeachable status of the various creators of human rights systems undermines the claim of rights to be absolute. But undermining rights by impeaching those who first posited them in law is like trying to argue that the calculus is faulty because Isaac Newton was viciously difficult to get along with. The validity of the calculus, like that of human rights, is intrinsic: either the system is coherent and appeals to what it must describe -- the real world in the former case and the ethical world in a social context in the latter -- or it does not. Taking that initial step, there have been many attempts to derive the human rights systems we have from certain foundational postulates of what human beings are and what ethics requires. Kant famously derived them this way: (Step 1) Praise and blame are essential to morality, but praise and blame are only possible if humans have free will so they can deserve praise or blame for what they do. (Step 2) Since we have morality and value it as one of the two systems we use for interpreting reality to our satisfaction (natural science, based on the assumption that everything is subject to the laws of cause and effect, being the other), we can posit for purposes of morality that humans are free. (Step 3) If all humans are posited to be free for purposes of morality, and this is based on treating humans as part of an idealized world of values, not as part of the real world of science, then we have no access to empirical reasons for regarding people as unequal, so all people are both free and equal. (Step 4) But how can we know that we are free, since all our behavior can be explained by science as causally determined by culture, hormones, genes, childhood trauma, etc.? We know ourselves as free only if we restrict our behavior by basing it solely on a purely ideal resolve and giving ourselves an intellectual motivation for action. (Step 5) This intellectual motive for action, so that we can be sure it is not just a covert disguise for some practical interest we have on the basis of childhood trauma, genes, hormones, or other physical drives, must itself be oriented to respecting something transcending the physical realm. But since what we have so far established as transcending the physical realm is human freedom, it is now clear that we can only experience ourselves as free by recognizing and acting out of respect for human freedom, which has been posited to be a universal aspect of all people. (Step 6) Since all people have been posited not only as free but also as equal, to be free ourselves we must respect in our actions the equal freedom of others. (Step 7) Therefore, morality is the respect for the equal freedom of others, or, as religious intution puts it, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' (Step 8) The state is itself moral only if its actions respect the equality and freedom of its citizens. (Step 9) Therefore, the state is moral only if it respects the limitations set out in today's equal liberty rights in many of the world's constitutiions.
  7. Marat


    What does it mean that taller people 'do better'? Generally, people who come closer to fulfilling the arbitrary, socially-established conventions of attractiveness, suitability for a leadership role, authority, etc., are GIVEN better positions by the subconscious motivations of hiring committees, the electorate (the taller candidate almost always wins the Presidency), and both men and women seeking a mate. Since one of the most important of these criteria for social selection is tallness, tall people may just seem to do better without really deserving that success, simply because they are given more chances to succeeed. But on the other hand, many famous geniuses have been short, e.g., Einstein, Steinmetz, Haber, Mozart, Napoleon, and Kant -- to name just a few from various fields. Perhaps being short encourages a greater focus on thought, given that athletics or physical work are out of reach, or a greater motivation toward self-development to overcome prejudice. One problem with eugenics is that the trait selected may be the best for the current environment but not for future challenges. Another is that the selected trait may be inherited with a cluster of other genetic characteristics which will interact disastrously with future environmental stresses, e.g., greater pollution, changes in diet, chenges in the world's temperature, etc. Since to some extent the trait selected is the one which is now culturally valued, as culture evolves, it may find itself saddled with a population that fails to fit its new criteria. E.g., violent brutes required for survival of a tribe 12,000 years ago may not be suited for the world of industrial rationalization, tightly-woven socialization, bureaucratic structures, and peace. On the other hand, selecting for intelligence will increase adaptability of the species, since smarter people are moe likely to think of new ways to respond to problems. However, the variety of types in a species is important, since dumber folk may provide a less competitive and opinionated social glue, loving and supportive but slow people may be essential to promoting social stabiity in the family unit, and essential characteristics, such as a disposition toward altruism, may be linked to genes which are associated with lower IQ.
  8. From what I have read, a modern octopus, while extremely intelligent for a sea creature, is in fact no smarter than the domestic cat. Their intelligence seems to be a function of their flexible body, whose advantages for escaping enemies and hunting prey can only be exploited if they can correctly assess their own dimensions in relation to the complex geometry of underwater caves and crevices. So they seem not only to be geometrically smart, but also, more importantly, to have a sense of their own self image. These two skills are essential for being able to make artistic representations, especially of themselves. In mammals with anything less than the intelligence of the smarter apes, self-recognition in a mirror seems impossible. The notion that an octopus may have this ability is reinforced by its need for self-image awareness to exploit its flexibility, but undermined by its limited intelligence. Also, since cats don't ever make art, it seems that that level of intelligence is insufficient for the task.
  9. Amnesty International, a reasonably neutral observer, has just said on BBC World that 'both sides' are committing violations of international law in the Libyan conflict. So I guess that where both sides are violating international law, NATO just backs the side whose victory most helps its economic interests. That's worth dying for ...
  10. Germany is also the only country in the world where I have lived or travelled where the cab drivers -- who are theoretically hoping for a good tip, aren't they? -- are spontaneously aggressively rude to their fares. This derives perhaps from the odd, statist, authoritarian assumption in Germany that the person with the office, the facility, behind the counter, with the authority is Hitler and everyone else is in Auschwitz. Thus the sales lady shrieks at you because you brought her three items of the same product and she rang up the price before you notified her that all the prices were different; a bookstore owner insists that you walk three miles to your bank to get some cash because he mistakenly wrote up the sale for the complete works of Fichte as cash and all you have is a credit card and he doesn't want to have to write out a new sales slip; the academic administrator who just invited you into his office to process a form pounds his desk and bellows at you when you speak up on entering the office, because it turns out the other people in the office don't work there but are also waiting for his attention, etc. It just never ends. All this happens under cheery signs proclaiming 'Der Kunde ist Koenig!' and 'Nie wieder wird Krieg aus Deutschen Boden hervorgehen!' Yeah, right, war will never again PROCEED from German territory, since it is constantly going on within it, only on an endless, exhausting micro-level. The other creepy thing is that after living there for many years it still seemed to me as though everyone I knew, from strangers to friends to girlfriends, was perpetually projecting some distorted self-image or pretending to be someone they weren't. It was as if you couldn't shake them loose from their constant pretense of being someone to get them actually just to be someone. The same is true in England, though it takes a very different form. You can stay for a week with a couple who have been married to each other for 30 years and they are still acting around the house as though they were two people who were going on their first awkward date with each other.
  11. When Spinoza identified God with all that exists, he was accused of atheism for not affirming the separate existence of God. I think that everyone agrees with the utterly trivial point that all the power, all the knowability, all the potential future states, all the good, and all the evil of the universe 'exists' as the universe. The essential point of the theists, however, is that all of this exists apart from the universe with the 'evil' subtracted out of it and left either in the physical world or in human nature or both. I don't know how anyone could ascend to a sufficiently universal perspective to be able to know that a sorting out of these features on such a vast scale was real so that he could reasonably affirm belief in a 'God' as the separate and distinct embodiment just of the power, knowledge, prevision, and goodness everywhere throughout the universe. But if God can't be affirmed as this, and he is identified with the physical universe or merely instantiated as something in our imagination, then 'God' seems just to be a rather empty, pointless nickname we give to the universe, certain positive aspects of it, or a kind of imagining we have now and then.
  12. I think we all (?) agree that SHC does not exist, for the very reason that it would require some sort of supernatural action for something so naturally moist and difficult to combust as a human body to burst into flames. So no one is disagreeing with you there. The cases are interesting, however, since finding a real explanation that covers all the available data in a plausible way seems difficult.
  13. I agree. The danger of e coli and other pathogens in organic food, free range chickens and eggs, etc., probably outweighs the benefits. Now that the health status of numerous Egyptian mummies has been studied, we know that people living exclusively on the essentially natural food of that era (except for Egyptian beer, which is an example of an early processed food) had very poor health from the parasites and grinding down of the tooth surfaces from eating stone-milled bread.
  14. A common mistake in a lot of the criticism directed against my theory is that if rape is motivated by violence rather than by sexual deprivation, then the theory makes no sense. But my point is broader and theorizes that if sexual cooperation were not made artificially valuable and precious by being routinely withheld by females as part of their social conditioning, then it would not be necessary for people to steal EITHER because they were deprived of female sexual cooperation OR because female sexual cooperation was an aritificially valuable, rare, sacred thing by its scarcity and thus worth attacking as a way to express anger. No one angry at a women would bother taking a sword and cutting up the air around her house to manifest his rage, simply because air is ubiquitous, cannot be owned, and is not withheld, so it has no value as a target for rage. This was the point (universally missed) of my example about a gang of grandmothers kidnapping people to force them to talk about the weather. Since everyone is routinely willing to talk about the weather, such discussions are not an object of value whose transgression can effectively express anger. Since the original question of this thread was, why is there so much male rape, I think I've answered the issue right there: Females make their sexual cooperation artificially sacred by withholding it, so that cooperation becomes a commodity in an economy which is then worth stealing or vandalizing to express anger. Don't withhold it and no one will attack it. Of course there was never a female conspiracy to become withholders of sex in order to enhance their social power and become 'dumb blondes' who have social power even without intellligence, humanity, or deeper personal value. I agreed with an earlier poster that this may have had biological roots in the female desire for stable nest-building to protect her during her nursing of the newborn, or in some genetic role determination by which women represent the stability of early child rearing vector to promote the survival of the species while men represent the hybrid vigor vector to promote the survival of the species by a directly contrary device. But my own point was that once procreation became decoupled from sex with modern birth control methods, the persistence of the institution of female withholding of sex has to be explained for other reasons, which I think consist in the desire of women to make themselves socially valuable as objects of sexual cooperation so that they can save themselves the real labor of have to become intellectually interesting and morally appealing as true human beings. This is not to say that some women do not concentrate on these more important human virtues, often to the exclusion of self-objectification and the withholding game. I think we can assume from common experience that involuntary sexual restraint is hurtful: Just look at a male elephant during its 'must' who goes berserk if he is not satisfied. Generally, there is a mistake in the criticism of the arguments I am developing which is to insist that every single statement of what is essentially an INTERPRETATION of human experience has to be supported by some scientific data collection before it can be accepted as a rationally illuminative perspective on common experience. Perspectives just develop the data we already have before us; empirical data collection is not required to develop a new way of seeing commonly experienced things. This is the difference that Dilthey pointed out long ago in sciences of 'Verstehen,' which seek to 'understand' things in a new way rather than discover new data to prove things. You won't find out whether human life if worth living or not by using a microscope and entering the data on a graph. Since our society has powerful taboos against sexuality and embarrasses people who openly confess their sexuality, any self-reporting of sexual desires is skewed by this ideological overlay of sexual repression. No one is encouraged to think of himself as sexual, and everyone is discouraged from self-identifying as such. But statistics suggesting that half of males and half of females don't want any more sex than they now have range over all age groups, so they don't really speak to the experience of the sexually active age group where the active withholding of sexual cooperation, the sexual starvation of males, and the socially harmful objectification of females as a 'scarce commodity' whose distribution has to be regulated by an 'artificial economy' that I am talking about go on. The old arguments against sexual freedom, that STDs are inevitable and that condoms used before marriage renders everything safe and clean are always useless are somewhat shop-worn. Condoms are highly effective against both STDs and pregnancy when used with any care at all, and many pregnancies ascribed to birth control failure arise in fact from subconscious misuse of them to achieve pregnancy. Given the mass of different ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy, from condoms to coils, from pills to tube tying, from vasectomies to abortions, I don't think we need to worry about that problem. Most STDs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, are easily treatable. AIDS is still extremely rare in the Western world, despite what the hysteria of the AIDS industry would like you to believe. Neither pregnancy nor STDs will work today as sufficient reasons to discourage a freer sexuality. All social and medical decisions are a cost-benefit analysis, and only junior high school health instructors think that in sex all that matters is unwanted pregnancy and STDs; there is also the much greater value of human pleasure to consider, which outweighs those small and treatable risks by a thousandfold.
  15. I think humans are sufficiently socially maleable that their 'psychology' is less a matter of genetic blueprints than it is of social conditioning. The Amish are happy to band together and set up a farm for a new member without demanding any payment whatsoever for their time, and in the Middle Ages many of the Cathedral builders acted more out of faith than financial interest in their contributions to the construction of these great monuments. Millions of people gave their lives for Nazism in World War II, not because it was to their selfish, practical benefit, but just out of socially conditioned idealism. So I think in a society where cooperation was the model that was promoted from infancy onwards, people would adjust to the notion that our basic interest is to make life pleasant for everywhere, not just for ourselves. Why do people now even in extremist capitalist countries, where they have been indoctrinated in selfishness since childhood, rush to give assistance to others in an emergency, even at the cost of risking their health and life to pull babies out of a burning building, for example, before the fire department arrives? This is so strongly instinctive that even capitalist indoctrination can't shake it out of people once a genuine emergency brings them back to what is most truly human in them. No one after an emergency rescue insists on a reward, or complains that he did more work in the rescue than others and should be paid for the difference.
  16. Tony: The reason why the Germans in your area were so nice to you so near to the war is the same reason that it proved impossible to establish an effective guerilla group, the 'Werwoelfe,' to fight the Allied occupation armies after the defeat of the German military in World War II. The Germans are too much inclined to be good, law-abiding citizens, so they won't do anything illegal, even if it is joining an underground movement to support the cause they were just fighting for. As soon as it becomes 'underground' rather than 'official,' it's unacceptable. (Baader-Meinhof Gang excepted) A cartoon in a German magazine showed a clump of skeletons lying around a broken red light before a crosswalk beside a forest road, perpetually stuck on the image showing that no one was to cross the street. Hey, 'Don't Walk' means 'Don't Walk.' Curiously, though, that obedience doesn't apply to paying taxes, since everywhere I rented an apartment in Germany I would always be greeted with a wink and a 'you're a man of the world' speech about how if foreigners didn't pay taxes in Germany, there was no way to trace rental income collected from them, so if I didn't report anything then they wouldn't either, and we could split the difference on the renter's tax savings. What was said about Englishmen being famous for their system of forming lines and then violating it routinely is quite true. Every time a line moves forward a person, the Englishman standing in back of you will begin to move up and slightly to the side, until eventually he is standing next to you. Then, when the line reaches the front desk, suddenly he scoots in in front of you. The only way to deal with this situation is to make sure to speak to the Englishman in back of you in line as soon as he shows up, complaining about how long you've been waiting already, that is, before he got there. This makes it too clear for him to get away with his usual trick. But this happens so often, I have to wonder whether they teach this in school in the U.K.
  17. I certainly agree that the wick effect is the best candidate so far for a familiar explanation of this strange phenomenon. But it would be interesting to know if the wick effect also somehow shrinks the head. Reports from forensic scientists who have examined SHC cases say that the head is about the size of a grapefruit, which just doesn't make sense, since a skull should crack rather than shrink, and should explode from boiling brain matter inside. The SHC cases I read about all concerned reclusive and impoverished elderly ladies who had no enemies because they didn't know anyone, and whose heirs, if any, would have had no financial motivation to hasten their harvesting of their inheritance. Random murders do occur, but usually there is some financial, emotional, or sexual motive. On the other hand, the fact that old ladies often wear a long lacey gown is consistent with the hypothesis that the wick effect is operative. The photos of one SHC case I have seen show that the combustion went right through the floorboards under the old woman, exposing the pipes underneath, but this seems inconsistent with the operation of the wick effect, where the heat would be going upwards and the hottest part of the flame would be at the top. Also, in that same photo one foot and ankle of the woman survived, suggesting the fire was directed away from the floorboards. Since we don't know how soon the body was burned after being killed, if it was killed at all prior to the burning, we can't settle the issue a priori of whether forensic pathology can establish your point. I challenged one pathologist years ago to account for why the people in these SHC cases did not seem to have moved after catching fire, and just sat there being combusted without reaching out to an adjacent phone or trying to get out of the chair. If murdered prior to the combustion, this would account for the lack of self-protective motion after the fire started. The pathologist thought that in the specific case we were looking at, the woman had Parkinson's Disease and so could not get out the chair. But even someone with Parkinson's Disease would struggle enough to knock surrounding objects over, I would think.
  18. A curious factor to add into the consideration of the harmfulness of obesity is that in the peculiar population subgroup of renal patients, the patients with the highest BMI and the highest blood lipid levels live longest, while thinness and low blood lipids are strong indicators of shot lifespan. As in all epidemiological relations, cause and effect might be difficult to separate here.
  19. Thanks Bob for restoring some sanity to a discussion thread that was becoming surprisingly unscientific for a science forum! I agree with you entirely that there was never anything like an overt conspiracy among women to create what Wilhelm Reich has called 'the artificial sex economy,' and that no doubt gradual, evolutionary processes such as you describe were the actual empirical form that the creation of this unnecessary shortage of sex partners took. But now that sex no longer means procreation, given modern birth control methods, the interest of women in withholding sex is biologically anachronistic and so should be abandoned. That it is maintained, however, is probably for the reasons I identify, which is that if women create an artificial shortage of sex partners by exploiting their own potential self-alienation from their sexuality by their longer period of hormonal variability (large-scale variation in desires on a monthly basis, as opposed to small-scale variation in desires in males on a daily basis), they can transform themselves in 'scarce commodities' in the artificial 'sex economy' which grows up to regulate and distribute these 'commodities' because of the unnecessary scarcity created. Being a 'scarce commodity in the artificial sex economy' endows women with great social power simply because of their physical existence, and the focus of women on self-adornment in contrast to men confirms this. Women generally want a higher rank as a governor of the sex economy, and make-up, fashion, weight loss, dyed blonde hair, etc. all go into gaining that rank. But this harms women as well as men, since women invest themselves in self-trivializations in enhancing themselves as the type of commodity that the economy they maintain requires, and men are induced to devalue women as commodities because of the artificial shortage of partners created. In contrast, if no artificial shortage and resultant sex economy to manage the distribution of that undersupplied commodity had been created, sexual relations would be so casual and unpressured, given the absence of intense competition for 'favors,' that men and women could both select their partners for their intelligence, humanity, and kindness rather than in the current grotesque situation in which sex-starved men are selecting for sexual characteristics while economy-creating women are selecting for economic reasons, with an inhuman exploitation operating on both sides. While moralistic thinking is characteristically linear, and just assumes that the existing rules are Right and Established by Divine Authority, so that anyone violating them is just Bad and deserves Punishment, scientific thinking is more dialectic in its approach and seeks to understand how the deficiencies of both the system of rules and the violations of those rules produce hurt all around. Much of the discussion so far in this thread has collapsed into purely moralistic, linear thinking, with no interest in exploring how the refusal of people to obey social rules points to something wrong in the social rules which can perhaps be corrected. In our current social system, we insist that females withhold their sexual cooperation as something good. This requires women to alienate themselves from an easy relationship to their own sexuality, and produces anorgasmia in some women as a result. Self-discipline is required of women, and this is also hurtful to learn. Men are also hurt, because it is expected that they live in a sex-starved state, which is painful, and that they exercise constant self-discipline over their sex drive, which is also hurtful. Among both men and women various forms of mental illness arise from sexual frustration. A further hurt occurs, as detailed above, when the shortage of sex partners, artificially created from a natural abundance of sex partners, leads to women regarding themselves and being regarded as objects, because they are made into objects by sex being in short supply. Additional hurts result when this shortage causes men to break the rules favoring abstinence and commit sexual battery, molestation, abductions, rapes, etc. So to take a scientific approach to all these hurts, we have to ask whether they are really necessary? Many social rules, like the requirement that people discipline themselves to work hard and live productive lives, are hurtful, but their hurt is justified by the great good they produce, which outweighs them. But in the case of the rules favoring the withholding by women of cooperation for sexual interaction, what good does it do which is comparable to all the harms created? Well, it empowers women in the sense that they become artificially precious because their sexual cooperation is a much rarer commodity than the sexual cooperation of men, and this imbalance between 'seller' and 'buyer' creates a 'seller's market' in which women can insist on material and social favors from men and can be valued in society even if they fail to develop their intellect, humanity, and emotional sophistication. But given the problems we have seen above from the resultant commodification of people that occur, surely the gain for women in this system is not to the advantage of society, nor does it really benefit women, who are encouraged to value themselves as pretty things rather than as thinking, feelling, and moral beings. So what would happen if we just abolished the existing rule system, causing the shortage market to disappear? Women would no longer be socially conditioned to withhold sex, and the society would take a benign and tolerant view of sex and sexual interest, rather than treating it as some sort of toxin to be tolerated only if cleansed by romance or religion. All the harms detailed above would disappear, since there would be no more motivation to withhold sex than refusing to shake hands with someone, refusing to give a stranger directions, or refusing to converse with someone sitting next to you on a bus who wanted to talk about her knitting project. Sex if no longer rare would also no longer be precious and could be recognized as the simple biological pleasure it is, unburdened by all the metaphysical trappings of romance, marriage, precious virginity, sin, God's laws, monogamy, etc., which now make it seem so difficult to deal with rationally. And most importantly in the context of the present discussion, there would no longer be rape, since no one vandalizes mud or steals the air, and something now common and ordinary would simply not attract the attention of any pathological individual as something to attack. "You mean I would have to sleep with every man on the street?!" a feminist friend of mine once protested to this argument. But of course not, since who would want to force you in a world where there was nothing special about sex? If sex was as ordinary and generally available as a willing ear to discuss the day's weather, the likelihood that you would be forced to have sex with people you didn't like or when you were not in the mood would be the same as the odds are now that a gang of old ladies would kidnap you, tie you up, and force you to discuss with them how much rain we've been having lately. There will always remain real reasons for refusing sexual cooperation, just as there are now real reasons for refusing to talk with strangers on a bus or shake someone's hand, but without the artificial, superadded, unnecessary motivations for withholding sex, sex would become enough of a commonplace that no one would think of forcing people into it.
  20. The real reason America is uniquely intense in its anti-communistic fervor is that it is also uniquely religious among the developed countries. Marxism has been unpopular ever since he drew the consequence from his socialist ideas that the intellectual superstructure created by capitalism had no merit apart from the system it served to support, and part of that superstructure he identified was religion, keeping the peasants willing to endure their poverty while their overlords were wealthy on the theory that it was only some mystical life which would somehow occur after death which was important. As Napoleon once said, "If it were not for religion, the poor would murder the rich." The communism-anti-christian link is what really bothers most Americans, and you can still hear today people going around, wringing their hands about the dangers of "Gawdless Commin'ism." In contrast, pre-communist socialism didn't alarm Americans all that much because it did not directly attack relgion. Experimental communities where everything was shared, Proudhon's and Saint Simon's ideas, various limited progressive theorists around Teddy Roosevelt and Eugene V. Debbs, although appearning after Marx, still underplayed the anti-religion implications of progressivist thought and so got a pass from the American people. The fact that early Christian communities were communist in organization doesn't occur to these folk. Now why everyone should object so strenuously to the idea of distributing society's resources so that the most fundamental needs are answered before any demands for luxury are met, and requiring labor from people only according to what they can give, not just according to what the capitalist profit motive requires of them, is not clear. "To each according to his needs, from each according to his ability." The usual argument against communism is that "it just doesn't work," but this is usually measured according to the standards and ways of measuring things in a capitalist system, so of course it doesn't work. The book 'The Spirit Level' has recently presented a convincing statistical demonstration that once society reaches a certain level of material development, what it most needs to produce a good life for everyone is an equal distribution of resources rather than ever more rewards for capitalists to produce more widgets. Denmark, one of the most socialist countries in the Western world, is usually ranked as the best place in the world to live, not hypercapitalist states like the U.S. or Singapore. The biggest problem with the way capitalism measures the success or failure of any economy is that it ignores the humans in it. Let's operate not with cash or commodities produced by an economy but instead take a measure of an economy's success or failure which is more directly related to the human values for which an economy exists. If we measure the ability of a society to produce this kind of value, more socialist states producing fewer widgets come out ahead of more capitalist societies producing more widgets. Take this example: If a poor person living in a dumpster receives $100,000 to put his life back on track, that it worth to him, in purely human terms of satisfying real human need and producing real human happiness, a trillion times more than it is worth in those same terms to Bill Gates if another $100,000 in interest payments slip into his $40 billion bank account overnight, unnoticed by anyone except his accountants. So by this measure, a society with a nearly even distribution of wealth would wind up producing many trillions of times more genuine human happiness than one with 300,000,000 peasants and 3 trillionaires, which is more or less the Republican Party's dream for America. So the only kind of economy which can possibly 'work' in this real human measure of happiness is a socialist one.
  21. Add up the total population of the world's Muslim's living in countries which are essentially 100% Muslim. Then add up the total GDP of those countries. Divide the population by the total GDP and you will have a more reliable measure of the link between being a Muslim and being poor than just looking at the rankings of countries, which greatly vary in their populations. The simplification of taking only the number of Muslims living in 100% Muslim countries is necessary because GDP is listed by country, so you want the country to measure the effect of Islam without much dilution.
  22. The notion that the present day state of Germany, in which there are almost no survivors who could have had any personal responsibility for World War II, somehow still owes the victors of that war reparations is nearly racist. Why not say that modern Tunisia owes Spain, France, and Italy reparations because of Hannibals depridations as he and his Carthaginian army marched through those territories on his way to Rome? How do you apportion the 'tort award' for any war in the first place? In 1939 countless ethnic Germans were living under Polish control for no better reason than that the victorious Allies in World War I wanted to punish Germany by giving the Poles the Danzig Corridor. Since WW II started because Poland would not cede its anti-democratic control over this alien people, was Germany's starting the war 100% guilty? In any modern legal system, in determining tort award size you have to establish a line of causality and determine the degree of fault of the various actors, so for WW II we have dozens, going all the way back to the vicious Treaty of Versailles. You also have to establish foreseeability of damage, the illegal nature of the cause of the damage in negligence, the existence of a protected right against the damage caused, and the fact that the damage caused was within the proximity determined by the reason that the duty to avoid the damage was imposed. These things can be conventionally simplified and calculated within a single social system in ordinary, everyday life, but not on the vast stage of history.
  23. The brain is constantly ticking over a lot of ideas, almost all of which are misses in terms of any coincidental links to the surrounding world. When occasional hits do occur, we suffer from an observer prejudice that highlights the statistical signficance of this match between brain contents and world contents. These apparent hits can also be exaggerated by our generous use of similarity criteria for determining what counts as a match between mind and world. "Golly, I was dreaming about the unlucky number 13 last night, and when I woke up to my radio alarm, the announcer was saying, 'This is your unlucky day.'" Well, were you dreaming of the number 13 or the unlucky number 13? Does the radio announcer know you and was he speaking to you?
  24. As noted above, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are just names attached to preserved documents whose historicity is beyond doubt, given the frequent reference to them by other authors of their time and continuously throughout later times. Nothing special turns on whether these people existed or not, since only their ideas are important. It is usually thought that 'Socrates' may have just been a name made up by Plato to play a role in dialogues that he wrote, but no one is much worried about that one way or the other, since the important part is just the writings. Hume's point about extraordinary assertions requiring extraordinary evidence to prove them reflects our everyday attitude that we will only create a space in our minds for significance doubt and wonder if we have something of sufficient weight to motivate that step, for if we were automatically to be open to radical doubt about everything at every moment, we simply could not live or usefully employ our minds. Consider what true openness to every possible doubt would mean. If you wanted to explain how flicking on a light switch caused light to appear in the room, you could doubt that the conventional scientific explanation was true and think that invisible fairies might cause the light to appear on hearing the click of the switch. Then you might wonder whether other invisible fairies might be putting up a systematic delusion before your eyes, so the whole world was just a fantasy produced by their whim, while you were really in a dark room as the subject of a sensory deprivation experiment on Mars, and you were in fact a Martian fantasizing about being a human, all thanks to these fairies. Or not. Or maybe it was not fairies producing such an evil illusion, but goblins, or ghosts. Or perhaps turning on the light switch did nothing mechanical, but just induced your mind by psychokinetic expectation to cause light to appear in the room. Or perhaps that psychokinesis could only happen with the help of invisible fairies, or on Mars, or in a sensory deprivation experiment you are now experiencing but which you can no longer recall having been set up, given your unusual state of consciousness. Now explain to a class how turning on the light switch causes light to appear. Remember, you have to be honest with them, and give a full and fair account of all the odd possibilities of mystical explanations which might be true for the process, of which less than 1% have been specified in the example above. What you see from this is that for our thinking not to get bogged down all the time in an infinite regress of doubts and speculations and skepticisms, we need to follow the rule that we will only keep an actively open mind to doubts if we are presented with substantial evidence adequately motivating those doubts first. And if the doubts involve the possibility of truly extraordinary hypotheses being true, then for that we need truly extraordinary evidence.
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