The NIP and mainstream ideologies.

Ideologies which go along with the status quo usually remain unquestioned, or only lightly questioned, even when they are blatantly irrational. Ideologies which go against the status quo are immediately seen as suspicious and must meet very high standards to be even potential discussion material.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I classify antinatalism (as well as more or less everything else I write about on this blog) in the latter category. What that means, in practice, is that antinatalism is subjected (whether this is done consciously or, more likely, unconsciously) to standards to which mainstream ideologies would never be subjected.

A great example of that was given to me by reader Brian L. in a comment to my entry on the Non-Identity Problem:

Economists, ecologists, and others I can’t think of off the top of my head, talk about future people, their impact, and how they will be impacted. Yet no one calls them on a NIP. Why just us? Am I not understanding, or do I understand enough that I see through the NIP issue as a non-issue?

The Non-Identity Problem, if you don’t know about it, is an objection sometimes presented by opponents of antinatalism. It consists, to explain it simply, of denying reasoning based on future persons because it’s irrational to base your reasoning on things that don’t actually exist.

As I pointed out in my entry, the NIP not only doesn’t address most antinatalist arguments, but it’s also plainly wrong and contradicts basic intuitions. If one person is designing a product and another person find out that a flaw in the design would make it lethal to its user, it would be imbecilic for the natalist to come in and say that there’s no point in arguing about flaws because the product does not exist yet. This is not logic or philosophy that should be treated seriously, it’s a sad incapacity to understand cause and effect that should be treated with pity.

The NIP is imbecilic, but the point that Brian L. raises to great effect is that we don’t hear such nonsense applied to ideologies like economics or ecologists. There’s no lack of people ready to use any excuse to fight against ecological concerns, but somehow no one has stumbled upon the great argument “we can’t ever talk about the well-being of future generations because they don’t exist, and nothing that doesn’t exist is worth talking about.”

We also don’t hear such nonsense applied to scientific disciplines which predict the creation of novel entities, such as physics or biology. People don’t go up to physicists who make predictions of what will happen in a supercollider to say “well, the particles you’re talking about don’t exist yet, so there’s no point in talking about this, and you’re full of it.” That would just be silly.

Although they do tend to be rather stupid, it is highly likely that the natalists who use the NIP are intelligent enough to understand basic causality and induction, and their use of the argument is almost certainly disingenuous.

I think that in practice it becomes a variant of the “well, that’s life” argument. There’s no point in arguing about the interests of a non-existing person in not coming into existence, and when they do come into existence, then they have to take the bad along with the good. At least that’s the common way of reasoning about it.

As I pointed out in my refutation of the NIP, antinatalists are not concerning themselves with the interests of non-existing people, whatever that would mean. Another point I’ve made many times is that it makes no sense to treat the good and bad of life as if they canceled out or compensated for each other.

But more importantly, it shows how eager they are to escape the irrefutable conclusion that non-existence is better than existence. They have so little to argue against it that they’d rather just ignore it entirely. All the natalists I’ve seen argue, from the stupidest Youtube commenter to the sophisticated academics (e.g. David Wasserman in Debating Procreation, or stupidest man alive Bryan Caplan), can’t do anything but try to ignore the arguments as much as they possibly can and focus with laser precision on the ice creams, or even just on the illusion of ice creams (such as that provided by hedonic adaptation).

As I said in my reply to Brian L., they must reject antinatalist arguments at all costs, even at the cost of looking like complete morons, because it’s too painful for them to contemplate that the arguments might actually be right. Much like a religion addict, a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a politics addict, any excuse is good enough to rationalize getting their next fix. But at least you can get a sense of self-righteousness out of being a religion or politics addict; I don’t really see what being a natalism addict gets you, especially since virtually no one in the world disagrees with you. And it sure doesn’t beat drugs or alcohol.

PIELC 2014: The False Solutions of Green Energy – Wilbert & Foley

Why do we make so much fuss about the Confederate flag?

Arguments about the Confederate flag are flaring up again, like a bad rash. People argue that it’s a flag that symbolizes hatred, bigotry, and racism. People argue that past history, or the people that the flag represents, does not represent a counter-argument to what it symbolizes.

And yet I’m not hearing people make the same argument about the American flag. Which also symbolizes hatred, bigotry, and racism. If you’re willing to make an argument against your opponents’ flag but not yours, you’re a hypocrite and no one should take you seriously.

What would a female utopia be like?

Even though I spend most of time opposing things, I also think it’s important to talk about what we support. This entry by witchwind discusses what a female utopia would be like. In doing so, she connects with other areas than just feminism, like childism, environmentalism and self-government. I don’t agree with all her points (for instance, her reliance on Green energy is flawed, as the video that will be posted tomorrow will demonstrate), but I think it’s worth looking at.

Stupid Things White People Say

Here is a short list of great quotes from comments on this entry. Have I learned something about myself? Hell yea. And that’s not even including the comments I trashed, some of which were long, incredible rants about how racist and evil I am.

So what have I learned?

1. I’m racist because I notice racism.

“Could it be that the people that notice are rascist? Is there any possibility that someone who didnt see the world from a bigoted point of view see racism?”

“So was Nina Simone a racist?
To me it’s a song celebrating diversity – we find what we look for…”

“Well there is a general sense that the average person who doesn’t speak Chinese may not understand that I Ching and Change and ding dang are entirely innocuous terms. People with racist proclivities will hear what they want to hear.”

2. Apparently everyone who watches a television ad that has a song in it immediately does research on the song and what it means, so I should have assumed all that information when analyzing a television ad.

“You didn’t even research the song.”

“So glad someone commented about the actual meaning of the words. Why didn’t the poster who started this article do the research.”

“Anyone who takes 15 seconds to look up the origin of the song, it makes no logical sense that it’s racist.”

3. Nina Simone was black, therefore the advertisement (which she had nothing to do with) is not racist.

“I can definitely at least point out Nina Simone never would have intended for the song to be taken as racist, but rather the opposite.”

“All you haters out there claiming this is a racist song: I have attached a file showing the song writer, Nina Simone performing this song. She wrote it in 1982. By the way, Nina and her band are all black. So, yeah, this is a very racist song.”

4. Apparently everyone who watches a television ad understands Chinese.

“Ding dang I do believe means certainly in chinese.”

“定 当, or “ching chang” means “certainly” in Chinese. You can basically take it to mean the same thing as “fo’ sho’.””

5. It’s not racism (or it’s not important) if it’s not done against black people.

“Start with white folks wanting to use the “n” word just because hip hoppers are too stupid to stop using it…that’s your racism…”

“Darling it’s only racism if it’s pertaining to African Americans…”

6. I have huge personal failings compared to Martin Luther King.

“Also, all that cussing makes you sound like a trailer trash drug whore, not a blogger trying to raise awareness. Your “style” isn’t the way MLK did his thing, now is it?”

7. Apparently I’m white and I’m deciding what racism is and what it is not. (I thought that issue was pretty well settled, but seems not)

“I don’t think Nina Simone would feel it was racist, let me guess your white? I wish white folks would stop deciding what is racist and what is not and let the people effected by actual racism be the judge of that.”

8. Hello white entitlement.

“I’m tired of hearing/reading “whitey”, “cracker”, that I’m racist simply for being born white, or that I have “white privilege” because I was born white. Who’s prepared to write a blog about Chris rock and his stereotypes against all races, that he makes millions off of? Whatever other comedian, musician, or entertainer that makes money off of making fun of people, just because of how/where they are born? My point is that, people aren going to take this seriously, while you ignore all of the other BLATANT forms of racism being committed every single day. Scholarships for specific races ONLY, groups for specific races ONLY, separate but equal as long as blacks and Latinos are treated special because of their “oppression”. Are we now oppressing whites to punish them for something they didn’t do? There would be no outcry of racism like the one we would get if we formed a peaceful, whites only group (such as the NAACP) or provided a scholarship that only white people have access to. Whites are literally denied access to certain scholarships because of their race, and that is ok?? I just don’t understand raging against a commercial, when there are so many more important things you could rage about.”

9. And the prize for the whitest thing anyone wrote:

“I love this song and don’t see it as even slightly racist. I think we all need to remove the race card and just enjoy the song. After all, color IS a beautiful thing. Black IS beautiful, so is red, yellow, white and all the other colors of the earth that we were all created from. Why don’t we all just take the racist idea and throw it out and just enjoy the song from a very talented lady”

A personal story about sex slavery in America.

A former sex slave wrote about her experienced for Cracked. It sheds a lot of light on how sexual slavery operates in Western countries.

When I got a little bit older, the first person I intentionally tried to reach out to was my great-aunt. She was always nice to me, I thought. I tried to tell her, “Mom makes me go places with these men.” She listened. And, just like the lady I let it slip to at school, she went right to my mother. “What is all this [Jane] is saying?” And my mom, being cunning, said: “Oh, no, she’s just being over-dramatic. She’s trying to take attention because I caught her in the house with a boy.” Once again, that defused any suspicions. As soon as mom got me home, she burned me.

You know how counselors in school made a big show of saying, “If you’re ever abused, come to one of us and we promise we can help”? Well, I confessed to my counselor. Want to guess what happened? He didn’t go to my mother — no, he brought in my stepdad and said, “Tell him what you just told me.” Which immediately froze me; I couldn’t speak. That night was the closest he ever came to killing me.

It’s kind of a fanciful story to believe — a 15-year-old tells you she’s being sold, beaten, burned, and choked, and all these people are involved. I don’t necessarily blame my counselor for being confused. I barely believe it myself. The community we lived in was already pretty big on corporal punishment, so bruises and cuts were shrugged off as, “She must have been acting out.”

“But what about Child Protective Services?” Well, this was out in the boonies, where A) nobody is big on government interfering with family and B) everybody knows everybody else. In my case, the local CPS officer was one of my cousins. She turned her back and just wrote it off as a family secret. The first cop that knew about my plight also happened to get his regular drug fix from my dad, and so he looked the other way.

The main problem with the atheist culture.

Most of what I’ve been writing on atheism has been pretty negative. This is for good reason. When we look at what we might call the atheist community, what I think should be more correctly called the atheist culture in the Western world, we see a lot of issues and problems that are only half-heartedly being addressed, such as sexual abuse and harassment, low female and POC representation, and a bad public image even amongst their fellow seculars.

I think this is all mostly a culture issue, not a belief issue. This will not be a controversial statement, as such problems occur in all kinds of groups, including religious groups.

But here’s where I diverge sharply from the dominant view: I think the main flaw of the atheist culture lies in the lack of recognition that religion is a cultural identity at least as much as a belief system. I also think that’s a big handicap for them right now and will continue to be so in the future.

Much has been made of “New Atheism.” I admit I have not read the recent atheist books: they just sound like same old, same old to me. But as far as I can tell, they still concentrate on the belief systems in dispute. There is also a strong ethical current emerging, which I am thankful for because I think addressing the ethical issues is much more effective than issues of belief. Although I disagree with the specific ethical stances adopted by most atheists, that’s not particularly important in terms of fighting religion on ethical grounds.

But the issue of cultural identity is distinct from epistemic or ethical concerns. To address the latter does not, in general, address the former. This is why Western atheism is a monoculture and has failed to attract people outside of that culture.

The culture in question is white and male, and incorporates the nerd culture, a general pro-science attitude, and an overemphasis on skepticism, logic, and linear thinking to the point of ultra-rationalism. I’ve already commented on the nerd culture, skeptic, and ultra-rationalism aspects in the atheist culture and how they lead to misogyny and racism in particular.

I don’t identify with that culture, which is why I am reluctant these days to identify as an atheist (not to mention all the scandals). Atheism itself is just “lack of belief in gods,” but when we identify we’re not just identifying with an idea, we’re also identifying with a group, and with a certain group culture.

The problem is that, while atheists are an oppressed group in one way, a majority of them, as middle class white adult men with professional occupations, are part of most prominent privileged groups. As privileged people, they refuse to acknowledge these privileges, and that’s natural: privilege is, for the most part, invisible unless you know exactly where to look. That’s not the problem. The problem is that they also hold most positions of importance and refuse to relinquish them.

It also means that the concept of culture holds little importance to them, because as privileged individuals they do not hold to culture as an important way to self-identify. People who are dispossessed, including many POC and women, hold to their culture as a way to connect with others and gain safety in numbers in a society that is rigged against them. And religion is a part of those cultures.

Because atheists are very much into ultra-rationalism, they will resist the suggestion I’ve made here and accuse me of being prejudiced, of believing that POC and women are too irrational or stupid to become atheists. But my point is that this is not an issue of “rationality” or “intelligence” at all. My point is that it’s a cultural issue. Most atheists are atheists partially because they never identified with a strong cultural background.

I believe the first step to breaking the atheist monoculture would be to increase visible diversity, so POC and women would recognize the community as being a place for people like them. All humans want to feel like the groups they join are for people like them. For privileged people this is hard to recognize because everything is catered for “people like them.”

It’s been shown by studies that showing women videos of a group where women are equally represented makes them far more likely to join the group than they would otherwise. Again, this is just common sense. If representation of POC and women, especially POC and women speakers, is raised to 50%, then more POC and women will join and start breaking up the monopoly.

The next step would be to consciously break up the monoculture and present atheism as a viable alternative to other religious cultures. I think there is one major problem with this, though: there are plenty of people who would qualify as atheists but who do not join simply because of the existing monoculture. Instead, they call themselves humanists, seculars, New Agers, spiritual, whatever. So this is sort of a catch-22 situation: like all organizations where privileged people hold the reins of power and resist the introduction of new blood, any possibility of change only lies at the end of a long struggle.



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