Objective reality as a backdrop for the expression of liberal values

Seems several gaggles of my fellow New York Millennials have been taking selfies with the burning wreckage at the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street in the background. Apparently this has upset some folks.

But what’s the big deal? Or, rather, how is this inconsistent with the otherwise-mandatory liberal worldview? To liberals, there can be no such thing as objective reality, because the existence of objective reality implies that there are limitations on individual freedom imposed by nature. Therefore, in the absence of objective reality, all events — no matter how calamitous — have value only within the context of one’s existence. And thus, a burning building is significant only in the sense that it’s unusual and provides a neat photo opportunity. It has no moral implications. In the liberal mind, then, the things which non-liberals associate with objective reality exist only as a backdrop against which the liberal’s gratuitous expressions of social and sexual liberation may be showcased in the greatest prominence.

Objective reality as a backdrop for the expression of liberal values

Madison Madness

Another “unarmed black teen” has been shot and killed by a white police officer, this time in Madison, Wisconsin.

As usual, the “teen” Tony Robinson is actually 19, making him an adult. It turns out that the “teen” had a prior conviction for armed home invasion. What I find striking is that he was sentenced to mere probation for this reprehensible crime rather than actually serve jail time. How is this possible? How can anyone believe that probation is an appropriate sentence for someone who entered another person’s home for the purpose of robbing them and brought along a loaded firearm in order to kill or incapacitate the occupant in the event of resistance? It is absolutely unbelievable.

And yet, the “teen’s” white mother insists that he has “never been a violent person.” Well, thanks to Officer Matt Kenny, he’ll certainly never be a violent person again.

But the most disturbing thing about this situation is the pathetic, groveling, teary-eyed statement from Mayor Paul Soglin. He uses typical, politically-authorized language to describe the incident and his liberal sentiments. Of particular note is the misappropriation of the word “tragedy.” Indeed, it is tragic that even in a society which bends over backwards to afford opportunities to those of socioeconomic disadvantage there are still so many people who are simply incapable of acting in a civilized manner. But Mayor Soglin doesn’t mean that this is a tragedy in that sense; he means that Robinson’s death — independent of context — is tragic.

A tragedy is something bad that happens and is unavoidable in that it transcends mankind’s abilities to manipulate the material world to its will. Committing an act of violence, attacking a police officer, and getting shot is not unavoidable. These events do not transcend our ability to manipulate material reality. They are the decisions of a single person of moral and intellectual bankruptcy and the consequences of those decisions.

Madison Madness

The misapplication of charity

The Daily Mail has an article about the murder of Dr. Thomas Oakland by Stephen Underwood. I’m not sure that this can be attributed to white guilt, but it can be attributed certainly to the uncritical application of religious, especially Christian, teachings about charity and helping others.

Now, I am not a religious man. But I know for a fact that Jesus never intended for his followers to open their doors and welcome into their homes mindless, violent thugs like Stephen Underwood. Of all the means by which one may practice charity, Dr. Oakland chose to allow a thug into his personal life and transferred enormous sums of money to him directly. By allowing the thug to become familiar with his finances and the location of his cash, Dr. Oakland sowed his own death at the hands of his charity’s recipient.

White, do-gooder liberals and their Christian analogues ignore the real and present danger that surrounds them at their own peril. There are numerous ways to exercise charity and help those who do truly need, and can appreciate, a helping hand; establishing personal relationships and spending time one-on-one with violent thugs is the most dangerous and likely least rewarding among them.

The misapplication of charity

The fruits of a misguided education policy

Fifteen former Everest University students have made public their refusal to repay the loans they took out to finance their education.

There are two important phenomena worth identifying here. The first is that for-profit “degree mills” like Everest are a product of our insistence that the federal government subsidize everyone’s education without regard to individual merit or the intended course of study. If school wasn’t “free,” these institutions would not exist to take advantage of the helpless and hopeless.

The second is the perverted view of reality that the students’ letter betrays. The reality, of course, is that when you borrow money you are accepting a fixed negative rate of return on the loan (the interest) in exchange for what you believe will (eventually) be positive returns from your investment exceeding the negative return associated with the loan and any relevant administrative or opportunity costs. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the borrower to ensure that the investment vehicle to which the loan will be applied (his or her education) is solid enough to offset the risks. Failing to conduct such an analysis is financial incompetence.

No lender, to my knowledge, includes a clause in his contract that abdicates the borrower of responsibility for paying back loans in the event that the borrower’s investment vehicle (whether it’s education, a small business, equities, etc.) does not perform as anticipated. Therefore, the fact that these individuals’ education has not turned out to be as profitable as they expected does not relieve them of their financial obligations. Furthermore, and most importantly, the act of borrowing money with the intent to pay it back only if the intended investment is profitable is an act of bad faith. It is unethical, and no lender would agree to those terms if they were made explicit unless the interest rates were astronomical. These “righteous” fifteen, rather than calling out a supposedly immoral system, have actually revealed their own immorality and are worthy of all the scorn that can be heaped upon them.

So, what it comes down to, is that these people got on the government’s education gravy train and are surprised that it derailed and left them stranded. Now, they want the rest of us to absorb their financial ineptitude through “loan forgiveness.” Doesn’t sound so righteous now, does it?

On another note, I make the observation that anyone who would risk financial peril for a degree from such a disreputable institution is almost certainly incapable of performing to any reasonable standard of higher education anyway.

The fruits of a misguided education policy

Civil liability idiocy

I remember reading about Sidney Good and Alexis Fairchild’s parasailing accident a couple of years ago and finding it very distressing. But the outcome of their legal battles is distressing as well.

The lawsuit filed on their behalf named five defendants:

1) Parasailing ride operator

2) A business located on the beach

3) A rope manufacturer

4) The rope wholesaler

5) The condominium into which they crashed

As I understand it, all five defendants (in reality, their insurance companies) offered a settlement which was accepted by the girls’ attorneys. But which of the five defendants actually has any moral culpability for what happened? Clearly, the parasailing ride operator has culpability for failing to properly inspect and load-test their equipment at regular intervals. Just as clearly, the rope manufacturer is culpable for not ensuring adequate quality control in their processes. But the rope wholesaler? Presumably, the rope comes from the factory sealed with a quality control stamp. And the building they crashed into? What, are they liable for building the damn thing in the wrong spot?

In a sane world, neither of those businesses would have offered a settlement and the girls’ attorneys could have moved to take them to court. And in a sane world, they would have been laughed out of court, forced to pay the defendants’ court costs, and hit with some sort of penalty fee for wasting everyone’s time. But the fact is that those entities’ insurance companies know that the deck is stacked against them and offered the settlement just to avoid further legal expenses. Of course, the end result is that insurance prices go up.

Divorcing the concept of civil liability from objective moral culpability has contributed to making this country’s legal system a complete joke.

Civil liability idiocy

Does sexual orientation have moral implications?

Sally Kohn implies that it does.

When we say that we want others to emulate our behavior, it’s because we ascribe a certain moral value to those behaviors, or that we feel a sense of solidarity with those who engage in them. This is the nature of preferring the company of certain people, for various reasons, over others. It also implies judgment — deciding that one code of behavior is better than another. It’s perfectly natural and is both the conscious and subconscious practice of psychologically healthy individuals.

Except, of course, when one’s judgment leads them to believe that heterosexuality is better than homosexuality. Then you’re a hateful bigot, perhaps even a Neanderthal.

On another note, I’d like to point out that Sally Kohn simultaneously embodies nearly every stereotype of liberal idiocy in mainstream culture. It’s a magnificent achievement. I just wish she’d adopt a baby from Africa to complete the package.

Does sexual orientation have moral implications?

A monstrous injustice in New Jersey

A 72-year-old retired teacher has been arrested for felony possession of a handgun after informing officers that he had an unloaded (and not necessarily functioning) colonial-era flintlock pistol in his car during a routine traffic stop. He faces up to six years in prison, with over three of them to be served without parole due to NJ’s insane firearms laws.

This is the same sort of abject stupidity that was foisted upon Brian Aitken (whom Christie has not pardoned, by the way).

A morally vacuous populace begets a morally corrupt government, which further begets amoral enforcement apparatuses. The police who arrested him rather than sweep this under the proverbial rug are every bit as culpable for this idiocy as the legislators who signed the bill to create the law and their moronic constituents whose loyalty put these criminals into office. It’s a literal cycle of stupidity.

A monstrous injustice in New Jersey

The eternal guilt of white Christendom

The New York Times has an editorial by Eric Lichtblau in which he discusses the plight of the Jews who were liberated by American forces in the spring of 1945. He explores their treatment by the liberating army and the antisemitism of a handful of senior American officers, especially General Patton. Like many of the New York Times’ op-eds, it has no thesis statement, and we are left to deduce the “so what?” from context. This dainty-but-directionless writing style is very popular among liberals, but frustrating to those of us who want to know the point of something before we lose ten minutes of our lives reading what is essentially a stream of leftist consciousness.

While the statements in Lichtblau’s article may well be true, I can’t help but infer that this is an indictment of white Christendom. To be clear, I am firmly opposed to antisemitism; I consider antisemites to be among the most irrational, hateful, and logically inconsistent conspiracy theorists out there. But just because certain senior members of the military happened to be antisemitic does not say anything about the white Christian society which trained them. Generals should not be chosen for their political or philosophical leanings because it is not their job to create policy or philosophize; rather, they implement strategy and policy through tactics. Likewise, Lichtblau’s criticism of the liberating forces’ decision to keep the Jews in the camps temporarily is unforgivable armchair quarterbacking. These forces, which had been trained to effect the greatest destruction possible upon a brutal, highly trained, and determined enemy had now inherited civil administrative responsibilities of enormous proportions. Furthermore, the relocation of the Jews and restoring their status was a completely unprecedented problem. To seize upon the harsh realities of the day and the Allies’ imperfect response to numerous problems without comparison or precedence in order to undermine the moral authority of a people who had just undertaken the destruction of the most evil regime in the history of Western civilization is, to put it mildly, beneath contempt.

I guess the point of articles like Lichtblau’s is that white Christian civilization, no matter how virtuous its undertakings, developments, and institutions, is inherently a despicable specter of traditional order and hierarchy and must therefore be condemned in the strongest terms whenever an assailable flank is revealed. And condemning its objective failures is not enough; its successes must be condemned by undermining their moral footing, thus revealing the inner rottenness of everything it does.

The eternal guilt of white Christendom

An argument against the claim that the universe’s current state is unlikely

The following is an email I sent to a friend after watching a debate between William Lane Craig and Felmon Davis. To be clear, this is not an endorsement of secular humanism, which I think makes specious claims about the nature of morality in order to make it more palatable.

Edit: My references to large numbers in this email are very casual and I combine different notations without skipping a beat; for that, I apologize. For reference:

“1e10” = “1*10^10” = “10^10” = 10,000,000,000 (ten billion)

“5e10” = “5*10^10” = 50,000,000,000 (fifty billion)

Also, Craig’s specific claim to which I refer in the email can be found just after 33:00 in the linked Youtube video.

I’ve been thinking more about Craig’s arguments. In addition to what I claim is a false dichotomy between the “universe beginning to exist” in the classical sense of time and the universe “existing infinitely in the past” (following which he describes god existing timelessly but implies a temporal experience in the creation of the universe, thus contradicting himself — in addition to his failure to define the concept of “timelessness”), he makes the very interesting claim that the universe had only one chance in (1e10)^124 to be in its current state (he cites Donald Page). He offers this statistic without any quantitative explanation whatsoever.

I think I know what this comes from. It’s an expression of the size of the state space of a hypothetical box with all the elementary particles of the universe in it (about 1e80 of them, although more recently I think the estimate is 1e89). In other words, there are (1e10)^124 possible configurations of that box at the universe’s energy level. Therefore, the chances of the box taking on its exact current configuration is one in (1e10)^124. You can already see what’s wrong with this line of argument (confirmation bias, anthropic principle, that thing you called it — you get the point), but there’s a more subtle aspect to its wrongness.

Suppose I was to take a box filled with oxygen and sit it on a table and look at it for a very long time. Our every day experience dictates that the gas will simply fill the box, evenly distributed over the whole volume, and that this state (on a macroscopic level) will persist for all time. But the truth is that there is a chance, albeit extremely small, that weird macroscopic events will occur (such as all the gas being packed into one corner of the box). One way of explaining why we don’t see this happen is to consider the state space of the system (gas in a box) at its given energy level. Each “state” specifies the exact position/momentum of every particle in the box (the only constraints are the total energy and momentum). It helps if you think about these values as being discrete. So the macroscopic “gas evenly distributed” state corresponds to an enormous number of states (or microstates); you can interchange any pair of particles, move them around a little bit on a microscopic scale, whatever — the macrostate of things is still an even distribution. On the other hand, the macroscopic “gas concentrated in a corner” state corresponds to a comparatively tiny number of microstates. Therefore, if we are looking at the box without any information about its microstate, we say that the chance of us observing a macrostate other than the “gas evenly distributed” one is virtually nonexistent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terasecond_and_longer).

Now, in the event that an incomprehensibly unlikely macrostate (gas concentrated in a corner) were to appear in that box, what would we expect to see immediately following it? Well, the same thing as if we were to inject a gas into the corner of an empty box: the gas spreading out and returning very quickly (over some finite time interval) to its classical macrostate (gas evenly distributed), but passing through numerous intermediate macrostates with probabilities much greater than “gas concentrated in a corner” and much smaller than “gas evenly distributed.” In other words, there’s a one-hundred-percent chance, given the prior occurrence of an unlikely macrostate, that the gas will pass through a macrostate of intermediate probability.

You can scale this up. The “gas concentrated in a corner” state is analogous to the state of the universe at or immediately following the big bang, and the “gas evenly distributed” state corresponds to the heat death of the universe (which is the current agreed-upon forecast for the ultimate fate of the universe). The intermediate macrostate corresponds to the current state of the universe. In other words, given the fact that at a point in the finite past the universe existed in an extremely unlikely macrostate, its current macrostate (which corresponds to some number of microstates, each with the same unconditional probability as any other microstate) is not at all improbable (also check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poincar%C3%A9_recurrence_theorem).

Again, I am not exactly certain what Craig meant with the number he mentioned, but that’s his fault because he didn’t explain it at all. I think his reasoning is flawed, but that’s what you get from misapplication and abuse of the concept of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics.
An argument against the claim that the universe’s current state is unlikely

What should we remember?

Because of her unique role in the Valhalla rail disaster (specifically, the fact that she was solely responsible for causing it), Ellen Brody is getting much more attention than her victims. Lohud.com even refers to “six victims,” although I suppose that is technically accurate since Brody herself was a victim of her own inconceivable errors in judgment.

I understand that her friends and family want to remember the good things about her, and I would never deny them that right. But for them to say that she would not have taken any risks is to demonstrate the same commitment to objective truth as a ghetto mother screaming that her son is innocent in the face of incontrovertible DNA evidence to the contrary. To say such a thing detaches the event from its moral context and reduces it to an accident, a mere “happening,” something sad but unforeseeable. The fact of the matter is that had she survived the collision, she would almost certainly be charged with multiple counts of manslaughter and face numerous lawsuits for wrongful death. Legal culpability is society’s way of formally assigning moral culpability.

Everything I’ve read about Brody praises her for being a good wife, mother, and member of the community in general. A good “sport,” “fun,” etc. Those are all good qualities in a person, to be sure. But they’re not enough. The capacity to respond in emergencies and not lose one’s mind in the face of a potentially dangerous situation is at least as important as all of the foregoing combined. This aspect of personality is rarely tested, but when it is, the result gives a strong indication of that person’s character.

Ellen Brody’s positive attributes will be remembered by her friends and family, and that is enough. Unfortunately, her role in public life is that of a confused woman whose indescribably poor judgment got five other people killed. As a people, this is what we ought to focus on, because it keeps the event grounded in its moral context. If we must mourn the dead, let us mourn Robert Dirks, Walter Liedtke, Eric Vandercar, Joseph Nadol, and Aditya Tomar.

What should we remember?