Tag Archives: reason

Is Evil A Passé term? An Atheist’s Thought Experiment.

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be an atheist. Since I wasn’t always one, how might I feel differently than someone who never had faith to begin with?

For instance, there are people who behave as though they hate their respective deity, then call themselves atheists. I’d argue those people are deists who hate themselves, yet blame their god for their own shortcomings instead of accepting personal responsibility for the way their lives are turning out.

zeus_1[1]
Mythological Greek God Zeus
In my mind, an atheist wouldn’t have any stronger feelings about God, Jesus, or Allah than they would about Zeus or Odin. To me, the only difference between mythology and religion is that the latter still has people who believe in it.

But one thing has curiously struck me lately; the concept of evil. Is this a passé term?

For those who are religious, evil is something put forth by the counterpart of their chosen deity. But I feel this term thwarts understanding of these acts by blaming a being like Satan instead of the perpetrator.

So let’s break down humans for a minute; or as we’re affectionately known in the biological community;  Animalia (Kingdom); Chordate (Phylum); Mammalia (Class); Primates (Order); Hominidae (Family); Homini (Tribe); Homo (Genus); H. sapiens (Species).

Regarding the kingdom classification of Animalia, that means that despite our own desire to feel special, we are ultimately just an animal in the animal kingdom. We are certainly the most intelligent, but there are many animals that are stronger, faster, or otherwise better adapted to their environment, as natural selection dictates.

So while we are special for our intellect, all animals have their own unique specialties, making us all special in different ways, or none of us particularly special at all; depending on how you want to look at it.

Homo-sapiens have evolved as well or better than any other species to life on Earth in many unique ways. For instance, because of our intellect, we’re the best at customizing our environment to suit our needs, instead of having to adapt like all the others. We build houses with air conditioning and heaters, after all.

We’re also intelligent enough to not only be excellent hunters, yet also quite adept at growing our own food. When’s the last time you saw an elephant planting a row of corn?

One trait that many overlook however, is our unparalleled linguistic skills. Because we are social animals, our advanced ability to communicate with others, whether it be face-to-face, or using technology such as the phone or internet, strengthens our society in ways other animals cannot achieve. Every time you ask for help and receive it, you’ve exemplified this.

Oddly enough, we’re the only animal smart enough to have observed and understood natural selection and the benefits it brings to life as a whole, yet we’re compassionate enough to try to prevent it by helping the weak among us instead of allowing them to succumb to whatever their inferior traits might be. If that’s not an ultimate display of commonly accepted morally benevolent societal behavior, I don’t know what is.

This can be seen in the way we help the disadvantaged through charity, medical care, etc. Or simply the endangered species list, where we actively work to preserve an animal that seems incapable of adapting to its environment as natural selection dictates it should.

stalin-hitler_1644235c[1]
Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin
But back to the term “evil.” The term conjures up names like Adolf Hitler, Paul Pot, Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, et al., who are often touted out as examples, and it seems quite fitting on the face of it.

The reality is that if we define murder as the killing of an innocent life, the animal kingdom is full of mass murderers. Cheetahs are mass murderers of gazelles, but maybe we will give that a pass since they eat them to survive.

Lions however, will often kill cheetahs, not for consumption, but just to eliminate the competition for food. Not very sporting at all, if you ask me. So are they evil too? Of course not.

So what makes them different from human mass murderers? The fact that we are smarter, or that we understand the value of empathy and therefore can associate with the victim? In reality, it’s just that we are societal in ways that many other meat eaters are not.

The concept of morality is generally thought to be a religious one, where you are either with or against a particular dogma. Some people would argue that morals are universal, but this is a false premise. Whether it be gay rights, abortion, the death penalty, drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc., what is immoral to some is moral to others.

If we throw out the religious component, morality would generally describe behavior someone does for the good of society, immoral behaviors are to the detriment of it. While many deists would argue that without religion, there would be no morality, Professor of Psychology, Dr. Michael Shermer explains the evolutionary benefit of commonly held moral behaviors here. Evidence suggests we would be just as moral without religion.

When people think of natural selection, they often use the phrase “survival of the fittest,” which can be misleading. It conjures images of some unyielding beast who kills anything that gets in its way. But societal beings are actually “fitter.”

If a strong violent psychopath were going through the neighborhood killing people, he might be successful if everyone in the neighborhood were also a sociopath and failed to band together to combat him. But if the others unite, the psychopath would likely end up dead due to simple strength in numbers.

They wouldn’t do it for the thrill of killing as the psychopath does, but simply for the betterment of their group. Via the death penalty, war, self-defense, and vigilantism, we tend to weed out the violent psychopaths among us for our own mutual benefit.

Lethal Injection Table
Lethal Injection Table

Many like to think it’s because we’re exterminating evil, but if there is no deity or anti-deity, all we’re really doing is preserving our societal construct.

As for those we consider evil, they’re just psychopaths, pure and simple. People lacking empathy and the innate desire to contribute to the advancement of the human race through societal behavior.

When we think of them as evil, we feed their ego by giving them the impression that they’re somehow closer to a deity or otherwise superhuman. But if evolution has worked in our favor because we are societal, they are actually inferior—arguably, mentally handicapped beings.

As psychological research continues to advance our understanding of the human brain, there is hope we’ll find solutions to mental disorders like sociopathy and/or psychopathy. But in the meantime, it would be nice if we stop sensationalizing these people by calling them evil; they’re just genetically and behaviorally defective. Elevating their status to something superhuman by calling them evil, will only encourage their behavior.

Nothing will pervert the English language more than the advancement of political-correctness

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Being an American, I cannot refute the notion that we have changed the English language in such a way that the Queen would not be pleased.

Thanks in large part to Noah Webster, American-English is unique through economized spellings of words such as “color” versus “colour.”

Noah Webster
Noah Webster

But while those in the Eastern hemisphere may consider what we’ve done sacrilege, we think of it as merely more efficient. Us Americans, if nothing else, are historically quite productive, we simply don’t have time for superfluous letters—they just slow us down. (Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek; please hold the hate-mail.)

But unfortunately, we’ve launched a new breed of people who feel that we need to alter our language to make America a kinder nation as well. And so began the era of political-correctness.

The reasons for this practice generally fall into one of three categories:

  • A term has evolved into a status of disrespect; such as the anthropological word negroid devolving into a perverted version with such a hateful history, few people dare to utter it, and in so doing, almost completely eliminating its similarly sounding and scientifically accurate origin from normal discourse.
  • A marketing strategy to find a term that will sell your product better than a more accurate description. For instance, the PGA’s Champions Tour, formerly known as the Senior Tour until 2002, when the PGA decided to change the name. This despite the fact that in order to play on this tour, you don’t have to be a former champion, but simply a senior of at least fifty years of age, making this name change disingenuous at best.
  • A deceptive maneuver to somehow differentiate what you’re describing in a way that makes it unique, and somehow more palatable in the opinion of the person using it. Such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” from Chris Martin, which despite her best efforts to sugarcoat it, is simply a divorce.

    Gwyneth Paltrow/Chris Martin and Family
    Gwyneth Paltrow/Chris Martin and Family

My problem with political-correctness is the destruction of scientifically accurate terms in favor of touchy-feely ones, which often muddy the waters of what is trying to be said.

If you’re at least one generation older than children of today, you grew up referring to someone with a learning defect as mentally retarded. Anyone who works on cars knows the word retarded is simply the opposite of advanced. It is not an insult, it is accurate. It simply implies that they will learn at a slower pace than someone without a learning defect.
But today, we’re expected to say mentally disabled, a term that means, “unable due to injury or illness.”

I’ve known many people with this learning defect, and I can attest that they are quite capable of learning, it is simply more difficult for them to do so. As such, I find it insulting to call them disabled, when they are indeed able to learn, just merely slower at it than that which is considered typical for the average human.

The term “African-American” has almost completely replaced the biological term negroid, as was mentioned earlier, although black is still very common and widely accepted despite it not being any more accurate than calling Caucasians white. But isn’t this prejudiced in its own right?

The terms African and American refer to someone who is born, raised, or living in Africa or America, and when adjoined, should indicate someone who has been born, raised, or lived in both.

But if I were to encounter a Jamaican visiting the United States for instance, by calling him African-American, I’ve prejudged him by the color of his skin by referring to him as such. And in so doing, potentially insulted him if he’s a patriot who loves his home country of Jamaica.i-am-a-jamaican[1]

What is scientifically accurate should not be replaced by what is deemed friendlier or has better public perception. When we do this, we pervert our language in such a way as to confuse those who may not speak it fluently, and we erode the ability to have truly honest discourse.

But a more important issue for me is that there is only one time when it is acceptable to be offended, and that’s when someone is purposefully disrespectful with the intent to offend.

In giving the easily offended these linguistic victories, we enable their dishonesty and fake outrage. But no one likes the easily offended, and by enabling them, we merely encourage the attention-starved among us to be more like them.

Instead, we should strive to use words that are accurate, even if there is a negative connotation that may go along with them.

While I understand that divorce is rarely seen as a positive, are the Paltrow/Smith children really better off by calling a divorce a conscious uncoupling?

This differentiation insinuates divorce must somehow be unconscious, as if to say one day, in your sleep, you unwittingly drafted up divorce papers, and your partner woke up, and thought, “Hmm, I should sign this thing, whatever it is.”

At ten and eight years old, I’m pretty comfortable their children understand what is going on is a divorce, and calling it anything different is only serving to confuse them. It’s not what they call the process that matters, it’s how they present the situation to their children. As long as it’s done in an honest manner, and in such a way that the children understand that it won’t affect their love for them, semantics are completely unnecessary, and often counter-productive.

Maybe I’m a bit prejudiced since I call myself The Logical Libertarian, but can’t we all agree logic should trump opinion? That accuracy should trump fallacies? I will not lower myself to the level of the easily offended; it’s incumbent on them to be better at identifying that which is truly offensive, then learning to accept everything else. They’re the ones preaching tolerance and understanding, it’s time they practiced what they preached.

Business People In Office: A Good Thing?

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

I’m going to try an interesting op-ed approach; debating with myself. While this may seem silly, this is how logical thinking and skepticism usually works. I list the pros and cons in order to come to a logical conclusion and attempt to refute my own theories to see if they hold up. The latter part, a version of falsification, being the most important.

Normally I do this before I write something, then write my opinion once I’ve come to a conclusion. But on this one, I just cannot commit to a particular opinion. So instead, I’ll lay out my arguments, and at the end, just leave it open for further discussion. I would love to hear your own opinions and why.


GCaseAs a young man, I had been initially enamored with the idea of Ross Perot as president (as evidenced by my trusty old guitar case). I don’t even remember any of his actual positions, I was just beginning my politically literate phase in life. But what I did know is that this man, having borrowed $1,000 in 1962 to start a company called EDS (I believe his wife had to sign because he had bad credit, no less), later sold that company to General Motors for an astounding $2.5 billion in 1984. By all accounts, a pretty good investment and an amazing American success story.

I say initially interested, because as you may know, his campaign soured in the end with claims of death threats and such that seemed to indicate Ross might be either succumbing to senility, or was honestly just a kook.

The part that interested me about Ross though, was the generic idea of a businessman in office. Whether it be as a president or legislator, I felt that the people running our government should have business acumen so that they actually knew how to manage employees and solve problems—something successful business owners do in the marketplace every day.

But is this really logical?

H. Ross Perot
H. Ross Perot

Let’s first ask if we’ve had any successful businessmen as president. Herbert Hoover stands out as the only truly successful businessman who went on to become president, and in the scientific community, when trying to establish a pattern, only one data point isn’t exactly helpful. We’ve likely had numerous successful businessmen as legislators, but it’s nearly impossible to judge a single legislator’s success when everything they do is by committee. So for now, we’ll stick to theoretical arguments as we can’t really use history.

I believe that one of the problems of government is that it is inefficient. In the business world, this is the path to insolvency, but in government, it is quite common and somewhat by design.

Inefficiencies in the government work place are indeed problematic though, and having a leader that not only inspires people to be better, but holds them accountable when they’re not, should improve productivity and reduce waste. This is my initial case for a businessman as president.

But when it comes to a president who works with legislators, they’re not supposed to be efficient at making change. The point of our Constitution and resultant system of government is one that is intended to be insusceptible to changing on a whim. A constitutional republic protects the minority from the majority, whereas a pure democracy could change in a heartbeat due to panicked legislators making knee-jerk reactions or merely those wishing to serve at the whim of a charismatic president.

Huyton Internment Camp
Huyton Internment Camp

An easy hypothetical to explain my meaning on this would be to go back to September 11, 2001 and imagine we were a pure democracy. Once we were aware that it was radical religious zealots at the behest of Osama Bin Laden who attacked us, the majority of America could have easily demanded that we deport all Muslim immigrants, instate Muslim internment camps, and/or attempt to close any Muslim mosques. There was a significant amount of anti-Muslim sentiment in those following months; if they were the majority, it would have been a real possibility without our Constitution and the 1st amendment to prevent such actions.

So would a businessman who is used to being able to put their foot down be able to deal with a Constitution, legislative branch, and judicial branch telling them what they may or may not do? I’m not convinced someone used to having “the power” could make the change without becoming jaded and end up giving up. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be a perfect example of this.

One of the other problems I perceive is of a fundamental nature. A successful businessman achieves success by growing his business. But in a free country, a successful politician should be one that shrinks government to what is considered to be the bare essentials. Two diametrically opposed philosophies, and ones that may not translate well.

Businesspeople solve problems, politicians fancy themselves as people who solve problems; but, unlike a business person a good politician should recognize when it’s not their problem to solve. That more often than not, they should simply abstain and let free people work it out.

What about combined experience? Clint Eastwood famously ran for mayor of a little town called Carmel, California after being offended by the bureaucracy of zoning laws and other restrictions that he felt were unfair. He understood how government affected him and would go on to make decisions accordingly.

I have conversely read news stories (can’t remember the name) of a legislator leaving office for the private sector only to get frustrated by laws that he had been instrumental in getting passed in the first place; showing regret for all he surely must have done to harm businesses he had intended to help.

Ted Kennedy
Ted Kennedy

In both situations, an opinion on politics was formed due to the effect of government on the private sector. This is something that life long politicians like the late Ted Kennedy likely never understood.

So I do believe that any politician should have some understanding of how laws they might pass will affect those being governed—it’s the difference between theory and reality. I hope there is not a capitalist among us that doesn’t want to vomit every time they hear the words “Compliance-lawyer.” The thought of having to pay someone to make sure you’re legal, in a free country, seems ridiculous. Shouldn’t one know when they’re doing something wrong?

So here is where I throw it to you the reader. Surely there are other pros and cons to be considered, what say you?

Trust but verify. Good advice then, better now.

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

I’ve written about Libertarians being the party of personal responsibility. While some on the anarchist fringe make us look bad; every group has their “one of those” that everyone ridicules, even within the ranks. I’d like to think most of us are pretty admirable, but a few seem to be lacking something important—honesty.

Just the other day, I got an email from someone which stated that from a “VERY” credible source, they learned Obama dismissed a female soldier who supposedly told him that the flag on his lapel was upside down, and that because she corrected/helped him, he had her dismissed. Furthermore, it indicated he wears it purposefully upside down as a sign of solidarity to Muslim radicals, because he doesn’t love America.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

For the love of all that is holy, if you’re one of the people spreading this nonsense—STOP!

The people at Snopes do a masterful job dispelling this junk every day, but it just keeps coming in droves. So if you’re not sure about the latest Obama conspiracy email you received, try a simple internet search before you become part of the ignorant conspiracy theory crowd and forward it on. If you can’t verify it with a credible news organization, rest assured it’s likely bullshit, and move on.

Do you have any idea what kind of nonsensical idiots you make us conservatives look like when you spread such nonsense? Much like we associate radicals like Michael Moore with the left, people associate these conspiracy nuts with us, and it makes all of us look bad. If you care about the image of the conservative movement, then don’t forward these ridiculous emails, post them on Facebook, or even bring them up at your next soirée. If you’re really responsible, you reply back with the disprovenance, so they get the hint that you’re not into spreading such nonsense. I do this quite often.

Think about what’s happening for a second. Every conspiracy you spread was started by someone who knew it was a complete fabrication; they are the ones who made it up after all, right? Then they counted on you, and many others like you, being ignorant enough to believe it, and spreading their lies for them. In doing so, you’re allowing yourself to be a tool for someone who doesn’t respect you enough to assume you’ll make intelligent decisions on your own. Prove to them that you’re not by exercising healthy skepticism when you’re faced with any fantastic tale. Just because you hope it’s true, doesn’t mean it is.snopeslogo[1]

Please remember that independents decide elections. Every time you do something that makes conservatives appear ignorant, you drive an independent into the arms of our opposition who do everything in their power to convince people that they alone are the ones capable of intelligent critical thinking.

The other dishonest tactic is a little more subtle, but a lot more rampant. That is feigned outrage. People who are apoplectic about Obama playing golf or taking a vacation for instance are a good example. Every person deserves to take time to de-stress by engaging in a hobby or sport, and the president is no different. He has a job to do, but also has a right to spend time with his family and friends, and to clear his mind. Do you really think the presidency isn’t so stressful that he shouldn’t need to unwind every once in a while?Obama-golfing[1]

So do me a favor. Ask yourself these questions next time you lash out at the president in a fit of rage:

If my candidate were in office and did the same thing, would I be equally upset? Is what this person really doing actually going to affect us negatively in any way? Is what they are doing immoral, unconstitutional, or unjust?

If your answer to these questions is no, yet you’re thinking of teeing off on them anyway, then again, for the love of all that is good in this world—STOP!

Sadly, I see members of congress, media pundits, and other prominent figures engaging in this behavior far more often than should ever be tolerated. How many times have we seen our opponents do this in regards to candidates we support, and each time think to yourselves, “You’re playing for the camera because no one would be that upset about this, now shut up and sit down!” Yet somehow, we’ll do it ourselves with no compunction whatsoever.

39_jimmy_carter[1]
39th President Jimmy Carter
I think most of us on the right believe our current president joins Carter as of one of the most unsuccessful presidencies in our lifetimes, by economic standards anyway. He has a myriad of honest criticisms that can be leveled at him using facts, history, logic, and reasoning. It is imperative to stick to those and only those if we are going to be the winners in the upcoming election.

Spreading lies and disinformation only serves to ruin our credibility once those lies are vetted. And feigned outrage is just like the proverbial crying wolf. Since we know much of the media is biased against us, and more to the point, love trying to catch us in a lie, it behooves us to be extra diligent about the information we spread, and the genuineness of the emotion behind our message, so we don’t seem hypocritical. If you are going to sling mud, make sure you can’t or won’t be proven wrong later. Otherwise, bite your tongue.

Political Bipolar Lenses: How Not To Have A Political Discussion

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

 

Bipolar: a word not often understood. Magnets are a good example; having a positive and negative pole, there is no in-between.

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that is similar in that people who have it suffer from violent mood swings where they are perfectly happy one minute, then intensely angry the next. They generally have a hard time occupying what would be a “mildly-irritated” middle ground.

Unfortunately, we see a similar condition with many political analysts, whether it be professionals, or just the politically-charged social-media warriors. They constantly look to prove a candidate is either perfect or evil. Logic should dictate that this is a foolish way to think, but sadly so many of us do it anyway because it makes us feel good destroying our enemy’s credibility.

The fact is no one is neither perfect nor 100% evil, and there is value to be had towards one’s credibility in acknowledging that.

Pope BenedictTo give extreme examples, the Pope, who is arguably the pinnacle of altruism, is still a sinner according to the bible. If you focus only on those sins, he could seem like a bad person, but if you look at the overall breadth of his actions, you’ll find a largely selfless man.

Adolf Hitler is arguably history’s least altruistic individual, but no matter how twisted his ideas were, they were born out of national pride with the intent of benefiting Germany.  He didn’t think he was an evil man, and if one only looked at his motives, they’d think he was just a passionate patriot. His actions however, proved he was a murderous psychopath who ordered and committed so many attrocities, it’s difficult to give him credit for any good he might have intended.

Conservatives want to find the skeleton in the closet that would prove once and for all that president Obama is an evil man hell-bent on ruining America. The left looked for that one thing that proves Mitt Romney dined on the dreams of the poor while snidely laughing all the way to the bank.

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney

Sensationalism sells, and the news media has instinctively learned that it’s a lucrative tactic, but it is dishonest journalism at best, and both sides of the aisle should be better, yet they often refuse to be. Intelligent debaters apply logic and reason to their arguments, and as a result, are seen as less of a blowhard and given the utmost respect.

Let me exemplify the benefit of using this approach in your daily lives. When I was young, I worked for a car dealer. The owner decided to invest in a “Buy Here Pay Here” division. He hired a man from the banking industry to run it, and moved me to a sales position in the department.

It was soon evident to me, that this man knew lending like the back of his hand, but was completely ignorant regarding most things automotive and sales. The department was failing miserably, and I feared losing my job. So I decided to write a letter to the owner, but opted to try a novel approach.

Instead of attacking him on every front, I first pointed out that my new manager was brilliant when it came to lending, and would be very well suited to doing something that specifically revolved around that. However, I had concerns about his work ethic, (He put in a strict 40 hours in an industry where 50+ hours is the norm), his ability to purchase vehicles properly (we were far too heavily invested in most of our inventory), and his management techniques (he had the personality of a ratchet, not a salesman).

Once completed, I put the letter on the owner’s desk and hoped for the best. Less than a month later, the department was terminated, my boss was moved to financing as I suggested, and I was given a position in another department as opposed to being terminated.

Not only was I NOT fired, I didn’t even get reprimanded. The owner quietly investigated my concerns, confirmed the complaints I lobbied with others, and my advice was heeded. While the owner surprisingly never talked to me about the letter, other salesmen were let go, while I was retained, leading me to believe he appreciated what I had done.

I believe the reason for this was that I made my argument intelligently, I pointed out my manager’s strengths, and then his overwhelming weaknesses honestly and fairly. I demonstrated objectivity, and as a result was given credibility, and my idea was put into place exactly as I suggested.

The purpose of this post is simple. I’m asking for anyone with a conservative voice to be a voice of reason, not rhetoric, hate, and division. America is headed down a path of financial turmoil, and liberty is being stripped away at an overwhelming pace.

Winning this election is very important, and those making the most attractive arguments will win the votes of the undecided. Don’t believe me? Ronald ReaganReagan won 49 states after his first term, including the liberal bastions of California and New York! It wasn’t just his content, it was his delivery. Try to remember Reagan saying anything hateful and mean-spirited. I can’t do it, can you? It’s because he didn’t talk that way, and our leaders, our media, as well as ourselves shouldn’t either.

I believe Obama’s intentions are generally altruistic, but that doesn’t mean they’re right. As I advanced into management, I often had to dismiss wonderful people, not because they were evil or dishonest, but because they repeatedly made mistakes that put the company at risk. I believe this is our president in a nutshell, and when pointing out his flaws, it would do us all well to frame it in that light.

Don’t fool yourself into believing people aren’t on the fence. We need every one of those votes. Independents aren’t impressed by idealistic bloviators. Zero objectivity begets zero credibility. If we limited government types try to paint the president as an evil communist, the independents will run away from that rhetoric in droves. So if you’re slinging that mud, you’re not helping the cause.

By all means, have persuasive discussions with those whom you think will listen; we need to win this fight. But demonstrate that you are fair and reasonable in your dissent, try to find the good in your enemy before you list all the bad, and you will attract the fence-sitters we need to usher in a more liberty-friendly revolution going forward.