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Comment Re:One disturbing bit: (Score 1) 484

It seems to me that judges should be ruling based on the law, not perceived ancillary social influences.

The supreme court is different. They're supposed to look at issues and decide if this is how our country was supposed to work.

Only to the extent that "how our country was supposed to work" shows up in the Constitution.

In other words, either: (1) your comment was implicitly limited to applying the overriding Constitutional laws to the laws passed by the Legislature (thus you turn out to be agreeing with the grandparent), or (2) you did intend your comment to apply more broadly, in which case (AFAICS) you're mistaken.

If you meant it broadly, what's your basis for saying they're supposed to "decide if this is how our country was supposed to work" in areas where they're not applying the Constitution (or possibly common law)?

Comment Re:Not "News for Nerds" (Score 2) 871

Actually, the comments section is a pretty useful trashing of this guy's ideas.

I don't know what the editors' motivation is, but I don't see this article as providing a soapbox for Bennett Haselton; I see it as providing the community of better-informed individuals the opportunity to expose the problems & dangers in his line of reasoning.

Comment Re:Militia? (Score 1) 1591

Here's some information on that concerning the militia acts of 1792 and current federal law:

Note that the militia exists whether or not it has been called to duty. Simply by existing as an able-bodied male citizen, you are part of the "unorganized militia". (And note that by the definition of "well-regulated" at the time the Constitution was drafted, "unorganized" does not imply "not well-regulated".)

Comment Re:Atheism and Morality Don't Mix (Score 1) 412

I think the point is that if that dying man prefers to be alive, and someone else preferred him to be dead, in a materialistic worldview there's nothing that makes either person's preferences objectively "better" than the other's.

I agree that it's sick not to regard life as "something to be saved and cherished", but in a materialistic worldview, you can't have any objective basis for saying so. (Not unless you define "sick" in morally neutral terms, like "outside normal human behavior".)

If someone honestly prefers causing pain & suffering, there's no way for you to say they "shouldn't" think that way. Their preferences are different, and you & I don't like it, but that's all you can say.

Oh, sure, you can talk about evolutionary explanations for moral instincts, but all that means is that "Unless you act in this way, your genes will be less likely to proliferate.

Comment Re:Really? (Score 1) 412

Morality is innate in humans, put there by natural selection.

You just reduced morality to "ways of acting that make it more likely for your genes to proliferate". Evolutionary morality isn't something we "should" do, it's simply a way of life that, on average, spreads our genes.
1.) That gives you nothing to say to anyone who simply doesn't care about the proliferation of their genes. Sure, you can point out that this kind of person tends to weed themselves out of humanity, but that's all. If you're faced with someone who prioritizes anything else for any reason--accumulating wealth, having the most possible sex, experiencing the most possible sensation of pleasure, getting away with elaborately planned-out pain & suffering for the sheer challenge of it--then you have no basis for saying that they should have any other priorities or behave in any other way. A sociopath isn't mistaken in any sense; they're just different. There are no real "moral values" beyond gene survival, and the instincts that lead to it, and there's no reason for anyone to value them.

Saying that you "should" do something because it will make your genes survive is almost as morally empty an argument as saying you "should" do something simply because otherwise God will punish you. And that's precisely what "natural selection instilled morality in us" means.

2.) You have implied, quite oddly, that the "right" thing to do will always be a survival characteristic. You've excluded the possibility of ever arguing that something is the "right" thing to do unless it is connected to gene survival. And you've implied that anything that, on average, decreases the survival of our genes is wrong.

That's the main argument I've heard about atheism & morality, growing up in evangelicalism in America: Not that atheists can't be moral[1], but that objective morality has no rational basis in a materialistic worldview.[2] In other words, atheists who do believe that morality objectively matters--that it "should" be followed--are being internally inconsistent, and borrowing from a non-materialistic worldview.

Sure, I sometimes I do hear theists saying things like "Atheists can't be moral", so your "yes they can" response to that is valid. On the other hand, I've also watched atheists refuse to hear what theists were actually saying: I once watched a debate where a Christian argued very carefully that "atheistic morality is internally inconsistent", and specifically clarified that he wasn't saying that atheists can't act in moral ways for moral reasons. And the atheist rebutted with "Of course atheists can be moral!" It seemed like willful misunderstanding. (It was a few years ago, but I'm pretty sure it was either Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris--it was during the early prominence of the "New Atheists". I don't think it was Dawkins, though.) I saw the same thing happen in an exchange in a college newspaper.

Of course, evil acts do not require religion, however religion discourages critical thinking in a way that can easily justify immoral acts.

I'll grant that much religion discourages critical thinking--but the claim that all religion does so is the result of either narrow experience or narrow-mindedness. (Or perhaps it's the result of the common misconception that "faith" means "belief without adequate justification", when it's actually a synonym for belief/willingness-to-rely-on-something.)

And I'll counter that discouraging critical thinking isn't limited to religion, either. (1) Self-described "skeptics" are often in reality sophomoric denialists. (2) The better point of pointing to Stalin & Mao's mass murder is that the tendency towards self-justifying immoral behavior is a human tendency, not a specifically religious one. Religion can be a very useful tool for that kind of self-justification, but that's not an argument against religion.

[1] There is also the argument that the rejection of God is itself immoral, and the argument that all of our efforts to be moral end up being tainted by selfish/immoral motivations.
[2] There's also the "how can you know what's moral without revelation from God?" argument, which is fairly common among Christians, but which is oddly ignorant of the Bible: In Romans 2, as part of Paul's argument that everyone can rightly be held accountable for their sin, Paul talks about how even "Gentiles" (who didn't have the Law revealed to them verbally) instinctively follow the Law. It's "written on their hearts", and we still violate our own consciences.

Comment Re:This is what Benjamin Frankin warned us about.. (Score 1) 1160

1.) You said, "When someone starves, American religious conservatives don't see themselves failing their moral obligations".
That would not be true of American religious conservatives who are among the people that I mentioned who are "active with charity to care for the starving" and who "actually give sacrificially". I don't agree with the premise of your last question. (Or rather, it only applies to some.)

You may not have caught it, but my last sentence was my anticipation and attempted preemptive response to some of what you proceeded to say.

2.) "X is a moral obligation" is not equivalent to "X is a moral obligation that should be enforced by the law".

If you think all moral obligations should be enforced by law, then that is the argument to make. It is a disagreement over the appropriate role of government in enforcing various moral issues, not necessarily a disagreement over whether a moral obligation exists in the situation.

3.) When I mentioned effectiveness, I was referring to the common idea (whether correct or incorrect) that the government getting involved will make a situation worse. In other words, the question of "will this proposed policy be a good way to meet the moral obligation?".

4.) Back to your last question. I already said I disagree with the premise of the first half. As for the second half, I would phrase it differently: We disagree over whether abortion (1) is a homicide, and (2) if so, what would legitimize treating it as a legal homicide.

Comment Re:This is what Benjamin Frankin warned us about.. (Score 1) 1160

We do see pro-lifers also being active with charity to care for the starving.

But to the extent that your depiction is true, it's not inconsistency--it's an outworking of a common conservative perspective on the role or effectiveness of government. Opposing the legality of abortion is in the same category as opposing the legality of letting someone in your care starve to death: Prohibiting people from harming others. That is seen as definitely part of the government's job; requiring people to give money for charitable purposes is seen as questionable.

And that perspective is held both by people who use it as a self-serving excuse to avoid paying higher taxes, and by people who actually give sacrificially.

Comment Re:Criminal Investigation (Score 1) 444

Whoops, I forgot that I wasn't logged in when I posted this, so it went out as Anonymous Coward. Reposting under my account:

The definition of "arms" has changed greatly in the last 200+ years.
So this comes down to whether you think the Constitution is a static document, written exactly how the authors pictured things in their time, or if it's designed to change and adapt as culture and language change around it.

After all, if you think the Constitution should be interpreted literally, but substituting the modern definitions for its terms, [...]

So let me get this straight. You think that if we took some modern guns back in time to the late 1700s, people wouldn't say, "Those are some amazing arms!"?

AFAICT, your argument is based on an understanding of language where words are defined by examples, rather than by, well, a "definition", like "weapons used by a soldier in warfare". (Which, BTW, is roughly the definition used in the court case U.S. v. Miller.) There's a difference between the "meaning" of a word, and the applications/examples that the speaker was aware of when they spoke.

You don't have to update the definition of the word "arms" to include modern rifles & handguns & automatic weapons, any more than you had to update the definition of the word "weapon" when people invented muskets.

Comment Re:Way to be racist slashdot... (Score 1) 113

The MLK Jr. Blvd here in Austin, TX is an interesting exception. When Austin faced the decision to rename 19th St to honor MLK Jr, the political realities that you mentioned were overcome when an African-American community leader literally died of a heart attack in 1975, in the middle of a speech advocating the renaming.

It had been recommended that, west of I-35, the street should remain "19th St". It would only be renamed in east Austin--Austin's "minority district". East Austin would honor Martin Luther King, Jr.; central Austin would not. Dr. J J Seabrook (African-American pastor and president-emeritus of Huston-Tillotson University) was arguing before the city council that the entirety of the street should be renamed. In the middle of his speech, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

The council voted to rename the street across its entire length.

Last year, the MLK Jr Blvd bridge across I-35 was named in honor of JJ Seabrook.

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This is clearly another case of too many mad scientists, and not enough hunchbacks.