Sunday, May 31, 2009
The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.
Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.
If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet--in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums--your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.
Courtesy of http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Fractal_wrongness
As for whether or not this is a recognized standard word, I cannot find reference to it in mainstream dictionaries, but it is a play on the mathematical concept of fractals.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
There are many different ways to approaching the problem of solving where our morals come from and I shall be covering several aspects of the moral argument.
Evolutionarily it is hard to think up if not impossible to imagine a species that could have evolved with a moral code of conduct that would permit the murder of their fellow members of their species. By looking at nature we would be hard pressed to find a species that performs murder of its fellow in group allies. What we see in nature are battles for territory, sex, food, and position which rarely lead to the murder of the participants. Battles are wrought in a variety of ways such as the innocence of a peacocks tail to the violent clashing of rams horns. A traditional view of the evolution of intraspecific battles are circled around the idea of ESS (Evolutionary Stable Strategies) opportunity costs and utility. If a specific player were to attempt to murder another, the cost of the murder will affect whether such a behavior will be passed down to that performers progeny. The cost of murder is obviously high in most cases, especially within the animal kingdom. If a murder is attempted the victim will most likely fight back, serious injury could occur or even death, revenge comes into play in human societies which could lead to endless vengeance and rivalry. Looking back into the evolutionary history of mankind any type of injury occurring outside of the past 100 years would be life threatening. If murder were performed before reproducing and resulted in the murderer being murdered in turn, those genes for "that behavior" (behavior and the linkage to genes is not a simple matter but the link between genes and behavior has been established) would simply not be passed on.
We can look for examples of intraspecific "murder" in nature for a better understanding of when and how it takes place. A female prey mantis can be commonly seen biting the head off of its male mate during sexual intercourse. This act of cannibalism has been shown to boost the sexual potency of the male conferring a big selection pressure on the practice. Wars between rival insect factions have been seen in nature, but such events can hardly be called senseless murder. The closest example that compares to human murder can be found in our nearest relatives the apes and monkeys. Chimps have been seen to brutally murder children of rival alpha males after taking power and have been seen murdering in group dissidents. The cost of murdering rivals children is low as they cannot protect themselves and after such murder has taken place the females begin to ovulate allowing for sexual reproduction to occur under the new alpha male. The murder of dissidents in chimp culture can be seen as a way to maintain the power structure. To my knowledge there are no known cases of serial killers in ape societies other in humans.
I will appeal to common sense and ask the reader to imagine a species that freely commits murder of its fellow kind and imagine if such a species could have survived the war of nature without succumbing to extinction.
Now on to the aspect of how our genes can control our behavior. Genes affect behavior in humans through the reward systems, empathy centers, mirror neurons etc.. (performing a deed can make us feel good or bad internally) Most people have a tendency to feel queasy when even thinking about killing other human beings. The exception to the rule are psychopaths who feel no emotions towards others due to brain defects either genetic or onset due to some form of brain damage.
Since genes have been selected against murder it is easy to see that humans are hardwired against performing murder in normal circumstances and are internally awarded to do so. Now that I have described how the moral sense against murder has been evolved naturalistically I want to continue on to the subjective realm of morals.
Laws are put in place to deter criminal acts. If a person were to commit murder there is a sufficient punishment that will be placed upon that individual if caught and convicted. A common issue with people is to say that "you are not moral if all that is keeping you from murdering is the fear of punishment", which is valid but detracts from the issue. If there were no punishment for murder would the murder rate go up, down, or stay the same? I doubt that I would have to argue that the murder rate would rise significantly. Obviously the laws and punishments are sufficient to keep a certain number of people from murdering.
The cost of murder is high, as the murderer risks severe injury or death by performing their actions. What are the benefits of committing murder? In a situation where someone was going to murder me and I had to protect myself in self defense I would kill the attacker, thereby giving me the benefit of life.
I would ask the reader to answer the question as to whether or not they would not commit murder in any and all situations and consider whether murder in self defense is moral or not. Most religions sanction certain forms of murder with the exception of Jainism and other pacifistic religions, so a devout christian or muslim could not claim murder as being immoral in all circumstances. State sanctioned murder occurs in several forms, such as self defense, war, and capital punishment. To address the extremely pacifistic religions, I would like the reader to think about this statement "a lack of action can be just as immoral as an immoral action because of the opportunity cost of inaction." A simple thought experiment can be performed here to show my point, if a known terrorist had access to a nuclear bomb and set it up in new york and had the trigger near him but you had the chance to kill him before he would take the trigger and end the life of millions, what would be the correct moral choice of action?
I have not addressed whether or not murder during war or capital punishment are moral but that topics need to be looked at individually and are not needed in this particular argument.
To answer the beginning question as to where I get my morals from and what stops me from murdering others. It is simple, all the factors that I have outlined above. By our nature we are hardwired to avoid murdering others, there are significant costs to committing murder including risks to self, a society could not function and would most likely lead to extinction if murder were permitted freely, and in some circumstances I would murder if the benefits far outweighed the costs, an example being self-defense or in the defense of others.
I don't want to typecast as a utilitarian but my morals do tend towards utilitarianism.
I am sure that some things have escaped me while I wrote this so I may add addendums to this as new ideas come to mind.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Note this post may be incomplete:
I have recently come across a group of libertarians on YouTube and have been thoroughly perplexed by a large majority of the economical and social stances that they take. While being superficially similar to the stance of most moral objectivists, I find that the subtle differences make a huge difference between the two.
Perhaps it is best for me to present my position on politics and economics. I am not affiliated with any party and choose to vote for the candidate that 1) has a chance of winning. 2) best represents my views on science, science funding, education, stance on social freedoms, then economics. But due to the nature of the US political system at this time in history, we essentially have a two party system. Yes, there are two other party's Libertarian and Green but they usually garner <2% of the vote. (maybe up to 3%)
The Libertarians, if I am to take Ron Paul as an example, seem to not be a party with matters of social or scientific consensus. Ron Paul is against abortion, highly religious, doesn't believe in public education and he doesn't believe in evolution. Of course I have come across other libertarians that lean more towards a moral objectivists point of view and are for gay marriage, abortion rights, science, and highly anti-religious. The thing that seems to hold the political group together is their consensus on economic policy. I have been pointed to a school of economics called the Austrian school of economics an economic school of thought promoting a kind of laissez faire capitalism that Libretarians across the board subscribe to.
When presenting arguments the Libertarians seem to fall back on getting rid of the "Fed", which interpreted shows there utter disgust for any type of monetary policy being in effect. It seems that the Libertarian chooses to describe the cause of most economic recessions to failed inflationary monetary policy, which consists of any increase in the money supply that they say will produce a bubble economy resulting in a recession. Most common Libertarians seem to produce negative reactions to any type of monetary policy (expansionary or contractionary), while some big name libertarians such as Milton Freedmon while disagreeing with the existence of monetary policy have chosen to give advice on how to stabilize the economy through its use.
I must admit my own personal bias and skepticism towards the Austrian school of economics as it is not a mainstream idea. I do have degrees in finance focusing on market valuations and derivatives and international business focusing on economics, but as do most universities they do not cover the Austrian school of economics readily in classes. What is taught first is a modern Keynesian view of economics with reference to capitalism. Socialism is not thoroughly discussed except in a negative sense, but the ideas of communism were discussed and so were theories as to why it failed to produce goods and services. In later courses we learned about modern economic theory and monetary policy, along with government regulation due to the Enron fiasco. I personally came to the conclusion that the efficient market hypothesis runs relatively true and that investors are not rational when information is scarce and the best way to make money from the market was either to acquire information before it is disseminated through the public and to value companies based on rational speculations of probabilities of future income base upon past trends and trying to predict market speculation….etc.etc. (most of which would have been spent on staring at graphs) But of course this has nothing to do with how to make economies work, but deals with how to profit in the existing system.
The non-intervention monetary policy is an intriguing hypothesis, but every alarm in my head screams it is bound to fail. But, of course as the rational skeptic I must be open to consider new ideas so I took today out to looking through what the Libertarians propose. One trend that I found very disheartening was a very dogmatic view from libertarians. I had a feeling that standards of evidence were differing between me and the people I came across right off the bat. I came across some very funny quotes right after a Libertarian told me that not believing him was akin to disbelief in evolution, and the link between AIDS and HIV and a rejection of science.
“Austrian economists reject empirical, statistical methods and artificially constructed experiments as tools applicable to economics, saying that while it is appropriate in the natural sciences where factors can be isolated in laboratory conditions, the actions of human beings are too complex for this treatment"
“The main criticism of modern Austrian economics is that it lacks scientific precision. Austrian theories are not formulated in formal mathematical form, but using verbal logic. Mainstream economists believe that this makes Austrian theories too imprecisely defined to be clearly used to explain or predict real world events. Economist Bryan Caplan noted that, "what prevents Austrian economists from getting more publications in mainstream journals is that their papers rarely use mathematics or econometrics." This criticism of the Austrian school is related to its rejection of the use of the scientific method and empirical testing in social sciences in favor of self-evident axioms and logical reasoning.”
As far as I could find there are not that much papers from economists purporting the Libertarians view of economics. The above quote is actually from a Libertarian and the other is one of their basic principles of the moral absolutes or praxeology. As the libertarian view point is obviously nothing like the scientific method, I have to conclude that analogous features between the Austrian school of economics and science are few and far between. The view that logical absolutes and the axioms of human nature are self evident seems to have been derived from Aristotle’s Greek school of thought. If my mind is not being forgetful, I seem to remember the pervading view of Aristotle was that logical statements did not need to be proved. The Austrian school of economics seems to have taken up the position that proof in terms of statistics and mathematics is unnecessary in the formation of its economic theories. The scientist inside of me does not agree with the prior statement, as nature has proved to defy human logic, only through statistical means have we been able to make advances in science compared to our ancient Greek counterparts.
As there are no fully free market capitalistic Austrian economics school of thought countries, there is no empirical evidence that this system can and does work. But, there also has never been a fully communistic society either. So these two extremes have not been fully tested. As for anyone claiming that either one of these economic systems works there simply is not enough evidence to support that view. I am certainly skeptical that a fully free market could exist without turning into a corporatist monopoly system, but of course I could be wrong. But as a realist I simply do not see a theory not based upon empirical evidence taking over a majority of the public so that it will ever be instated in the US. My final conclusion is that I remain unconvinced of the claims made by Libertarians.
(Note may be incomplete)
But even if the bailouts were investment (which they weren't) they would have been a bad one at best because they went into failed banks...
Government spending is NOT investment though, even if its in infrastructure.
That's why they are separated.
Investment is done privately without government.
No they aren't.
I may be wrong, but I do believe the S&L crisis would be an example of this....
"but I refuse to take a presupposition in the light of the lack of evidence to support the position taken by this video."
He provided evidence, in this video, and in others.
No, it was caused by the Fed pumping too much many into the system.
"The scale is also different than the S&L crisis."
Why does this matter?
"bad evidence is not good evidence."
What evidence are you referring to?
Bad investments are ENCOURAGED by the Fed's inflationary bubbles. That's how it works! The increase in the Supply of Loanable Funds results in a drop in interest rates, which makes banks and investors less risk-averse. It's been shown over and over and over again.
Yes, I would use the free banking era as evidence. You were trying to imply that our current economic crisis was not due to monetary policy. I pointed you to an example where such monetary policy wasn't present, and the result was not malinvestment.
Get over it. Our monetary policy led to this recession. It enabled, encouraged, and protected the malinvestment that caused it. To deny this is akin to denying evolution or gravity.
And quite a few economists DO share our position. Ignorance is not a valid defense.
It wasn't a matter of brains. It was a matter of looking at the latest comments you had made, keeping the subject of the video in question, and replying. Don't blame me for the fact that Youtube's comment system is screwed up.
Milton Friedman, Adam Smith (the man whose writings inspired Darwin's T.O.S.), Peter Schiff... (cont.)
Argument from authority? Is that all you have now?
You've asserted that these recessions would happen whether or not monetary policy was changed. This has been proven false.
You've asserted that we blame all economic problems on our monetary policy. This has been proven false.
You've asserted that our opinions are only held by a minority of "crackpot" economists. This is demonstrably false.
Virgil0211 (4 hours ago) Show Hide Ludwig Von Mises, Friedrich Von Hayek (Who, like Friedman, won a nobel prize in economics), Joseph Schumpeter, Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard.
Von Mises and Milton Friedman both warned about the Great Depression some years before it happened, and Peter Schiff warned about our current recession when other economists were predicting that such a recession couldn't happen.
These are NOT obscure economists. These are brilliant men whose boots you are not worthy to kiss. Your fallacy is revealed.
kintarocrab (3 hours ago) Show Hide
Secondly, we never said all economic problems were caused by our current monetary policy. We stated that our monetary policy has a specific effect on our economy that leads to this cycle of expansion and recession.
Minority, maybe. Obscure, definitely not. We also have 100+ years of economic papers and several accurate predictions under our belts.
It wasn't an argument from authority. You said it was held by an obscure minority. The names were in response to that. You challenged the authority itself.
Whatever the case, the fact that the theory predicted these circumstances vindicates it beyond the edit wars of wikipedia.
An objectivist may follow the austrian school, but one who ascribes to the austrian school may not be an objectivist.
The point is why they thought the economy would tank. The keynesian economists basically predicted that so long as the government kept spending, our economy would do well. Schiff predicted that if we kept up our monetary policy, we'd experience a recession. Guess who was right.
You're behaving almost exactly like a creationist, right down to throwing insults as you leave in disgrace.
I wish you well. I hope you one day learn to apply reason to economics as well as science.