20100921

huh


10 comments:

  1. Wow I guess these "Christian leaders" really have a lot of time on their hands huh.

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  2. This is great. This is amazing. Rally the battalions, philosopher-soldiers, and prepare to evolve the next stage in battle!

    In all seriousness, I am actually excited to see and decontruct the Christian arguments against post-humanism (and I've met many of the scholars they decry as dangerous). Can't do it now, as I'm in class, but reading that big page, they actually do a pretty good job of laying out the transhumanist case and supporting it with evidence.

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  3. I will note that the author, Thomas R Horn, is a beautiful, beautiful nut. His other major work is about Nephilim Stargates and the link between UFOs and biblical prophecies, along with a book on Spiritual Warfare and how to fight demons. Google for hilarity.

    But maybe we need a higher class of opponent...

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  4. It occurred to me like letters like the one you sent are exactly how political machines ruin public discourse on a subject. The goal is not to participate in the debate in a nonjudgmental way, they specifically want to "influence" the debate. This betrays a fundamental lack of faith in public debate itself as a mechanism of coming to a reasonable answer. It also guarantees that the debate will not be productive, because so many people are suddenly paid to participate in it who aren't interested in the outcome and are just trying to shout down whoever they don't agree with. I mean Biff you are already anticipating deconstructing their presumably specious arguments -- if you already "know" they are specious then why would you want to deconstruct them. I'm not trying to say that you don't know they are specious, I think its pretty obvious that you "influence" a debate like this most by bending the truth. I just think that, the debate is already ruined by this anticipation.

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  5. Patrick Lin, who's written some of the enhancement reports cite by Horn replies. <>

    "But we’ve encountered the sort of pundits as the authors of the open letter before: extremists who see moral dangers either in everything or in nothing. And, in our experience, they are unlikely to be persuaded by any facts or logic that do not support their own views—which is, unfortunately, not an uncommon cognitive bias for theists and nontheists alike. The Luddite or anti-technology bent of the open letter covers issues that might make Ted Kaczynski and his “Unabomber’s Manifesto” proud, and those issues deserve a response that I cannot provide here. But it seems forgivable if we assume that no one can really or easily change the minds of such dedicated individuals who are heavily vested in their own beliefs."

    Chris, political debate is not debate in the sense that you want, the Socratic ideal of equals discussing, using reason and eloquence to sway one another, it is rather the process of bringing a mass of people to a decision. When you present an argument like the one above, you aren't trying to convert the other side so much as raise a banner over your position, and convince other people to express the same views, so that when the votes are counted at the end of the day, you'll be in the majority.

    Reason and eloquence play a large part in the strength and attractiveness of one's argument, but political positions are almost never logical in a mathematical sense. They are inherently built from contradictions and emotionally loaded words, and they have to be, because people, the fundamental units of politics, are contradictory and emotional. The problem is when cynical groups misstate their position and outright lie because it plays better in the media (see Death Panels and pretty much anything the Republicans did during the health care debate.)

    Politics is not about converting others nor coming to a reasonable answer. It is about forming alliances and making policy (funding) choices. It is about power, not reason.

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  6. Thomas Lin of the IEET replies to Horn: <>

    "But we’ve encountered the sort of pundits as the authors of the open letter before: extremists who see moral dangers either in everything or in nothing. And, in our experience, they are unlikely to be persuaded by any facts or logic that do not support their own views—which is, unfortunately, not an uncommon cognitive bias for theists and nontheists alike. The Luddite or anti-technology bent of the open letter covers issues that might make Ted Kaczynski and his “Unabomber’s Manifesto” proud, and those issues deserve a response that I cannot provide here. But it seems forgivable if we assume that no one can really or easily change the minds of such dedicated individuals who are heavily vested in their own beliefs."

    Chris, political debate is not about having a conversation, nor is it about reason. The rational of political debate is to stake out positions and allies before taking a vote. On the grounds, what matters is presenting your argument as eloquently and as durably as possible, marshaling allies, and dissipating the opponent's strength. Only rarely, and at the fringes, will people change their minds.

    Political debates are not specious and damaged because they don't follow the traditional forms and aims of what you'd call a debate; it's a very different animal. What harms political debate is when people misrepresent their positions, muddying the clarity of public discourse, and making it harder to see where their interests lie.

    Thomas Horn isn't doing that. He may be a charlatan and demagogue, but his interpretation of transhumanism is more accurate than could be expected. I agree with him: Transhumanism and American Conservative Christianity are opposing ideologies. I'm just excited to see the lines being draw.

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  7. If none of this is about learning or ideas, and its entirely ideological nuts spouting "attack tweets" at each other, then why would you ever want to participate in any of it.

    If no one is really listening with an open mind, then this is entirely unproductive.

    This idea that all political debate is just power plays is ridiculous though. I've had countless debates that are meaningful and enlightening, and I wouldn't see the world the same way if I hadn't had them. You can all be cynical bastards if you like but there are people out there trying to think through the issues meaningfully for themselves. When it devolves into power plays, who can get who to pay lip service to whom, that may be the status quo, but thats when it is terribly broken.

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  8. Political debate == power play

    You've had debates, but they haven't been political debates, because while they may have been about political issues, they did not resolve into a policy outcome. Politics is about power, it is about compelling or convincing others to follow your course of action. This sucks for producing knowledge, and it sucks in general, and we all know it sucks, but I think it's inherent to the political process. From what I've read, the Athenian democracy behaved in just this way, Rosseau's common will operated similarly, and bad as it is, it's inherent to human nature.

    Now, to return to the good folks at RNN, I posted a comment to the IEET response, and got called out in the same sentence as Patrick Lin. I feel giddy as a schoolgirl, or maybe a 12-yr old engaging in their first flame war.

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  9. I feel like honest debate over policy can sometimes end up in political debate.

    Presumably the specifics of certain bills, where you have a handful of like-minded congresspeople trying to pool motives to write a single piece of legislation, would involve something like freindly rational debate.

    and then I think we have to assume that most citizens engage in casual debate over policy. this leads to some sort of snails-pace drifting of the political positions of the electorate, which then get amplified in the power-plays.

    and, furthermore, when the topics of debate are abstract, and either sufficiently removed from special interests, or sufficiently critical that the government won't let special interest ruin everything, I like to imagine that the think-tanks are engaging in honest, well informed debate which will translate directly into policy.

    is this ... not the case?

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  10. You are roughly correct. People engage in policy debate all the time, informally amongst themselves, and formally in think-tanks and similar groups. The problem is that in America, Congress is an obligatory passage point, and Congress is political, and terribly so in a way that truth and knowledge are not valued.

    But we can translate debate into policy in other ways. State and local legislatures may be less politicized, there are multinational organizations like the UN, and citizen's group can build and wield power outside the traditional legislative structure. These may be more fruitful venues for the kinds of debate that Beck is seeking.

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