Sunday, July 4, 2010

Atheist Forums

Good conversation thread happening here.

17 comments:

Rob said...

"Healthy relationships definitely make people happier. But children adversely affect relationships. As Thomas Bradbury, a father of two and professor of psychology at UCLA, likes to say: 'Being in a good relationship is a risk factor for becoming a parent.'"
http://nymag.com/news/features/67024/

Curator said...

Atheist Forums is shockingly civil.

timcooijmans said...

That's because they think we're angsty teens who pose no threat to their established opinions. They may change their tune once they realize we're really serious and have thought things through.

metamorphhh said...

Do you think so, tim? I thought there was a surprising breadth of opinion over there. You might be right, though. These conversations often seem to devolve, though maybe it'll simply peter out before that happens. I don't think most people take the subject very seriously.

timcooijmans said...

That's kind of what I mean. They don't take it seriously, because in ditching religion, they have convinced themselves that nothing is sacred in the literal sense, and it makes them think that nothing is sacred in the metaphorical sense.

I may very well be wrong about the objective truth of antinatalism and other strong claims I make about it. If that is so, then so be it. I am putting my eggs in the asymmetry basket, and if the asymmetry is wrong, I'll give up. But if going extinct really is the right thing to do, then surely that must be the most important thing in the world, and consequently, answering the question of whether we should go extinct is hugely important?

(I know that similar claims can be made about other things. If magic exists and can solve all our problems, then the search for magic must trump everything else. The difference is that the question of whether we should go extinct is likely answerable.)

timcooijmans said...

By the way, I'm probably just obsessed with the people there that disagree with us and put forward the same old arguments over and over again. There are indeed surprisingly many people who expressed antinatalist sentiment there. I wonder how many of them got there from here, though.

metamorphhh said...

tim, don't let any of my (what will probably turn out to be) semantical nitpicking concerning metaphysical objectivism deter you. Don't get me wrong; there are reasons I make these arguments that I feel are kinda important (whether they really are or not is beside the point :)). But beyond all that, antinatalism is THE most meaningful subject we could possibly be talking about, which is why I invest the effort here that I do. EVEN though I'm fully aware of the tiny, tiny probability that the philosophy will ever be adopted by the majority of humankind, I persist, simply because the probability is slightly less than zero, and because I feel it's the right thing to do. In that vein, I appreciate what you call your 'obsession', which I see as strength of purpose. Nothing wrong with being passionate for what we believe, especially when the stakes are so great. Thanks for your efforts.

Chip said...

I've been participating in this discussion over the past few days and have found it to be mostly civil (though a few board members seem annoyed with me and other antinatalists who were probably steered over from here or from Sister Y's site). I think the value in these types of public forum discussions is that they will be read by others who see their own reflexive assumptions being challenged on rational terms. When people start accusing you of being a flat-earther or imploring you to kill yourself, keep a level head and look for the arguments that can be addressed. Acrimony won't convince anyone of anything, but a patient, rational approach may plant a seed in the minds of those for whom this is shockingly new territory. Redundancy is unavoidable.

metamorphhh said...

Chip:

I just caught up over there; better than the usual, though I think it's come to the digging-in-of-heels stage. But you're right. It was very good reading, and'll make a valuable archive.

Anonymous said...

I posted a few times over there as "adjo"; I hope my contributions didn't come across as acrimonious (or at least not predominantly so). Although I think Chip and others have dropped some good stuff on those folks, I am personally less confident about the usefulness or even necessity of a "philosophical" approach and tend to go more "you might be an obtuse asshole, if...", while obviously trying to keep it rational. I guess part of it is also that I probably don't have the philosophy chops, but this is such a practical real world issue and don't like to see it devolve into an amusing philosophical game (I'm not saying anyone over there is guilty of doing that yet, I'm just saying). At any rate, I'm done posting over there; if "suffering" isn't "bad," then my dictionary's broke, or language/communication is otherwise breaking down, and anyway, it's starting to feel like I'm trying to convince Ted Bundy that strangling ladies isn't the best use of his time. "But what's so bad about strangling..." Ok guy; good luck to your kids.

Anonymous said...

Eh, forget what I said about "philosophical"; I guess all I really meant is that I like to try to be more brief than not; I just looked back at Chip's last post, and it's hardly "philosophical" in any negative sense, it's really all good stuff.

Chip said...

timcooijmans wrote:

"...in ditching religion, they have convinced themselves that nothing is sacred in the literal sense, and it makes them think that nothing is sacred in the metaphorical sense."

Makes sense in theory, but in practice I don't think this is true of most atheists. Consider BennyBoy, the character who has stuck it out as others have dropped off in the forum. I can't quite recall where he began, but it wasn't long before he began to cite the "survival" imperative as an all-countermanding justification for making new people. But isn't this tack just an example of placing one's quasi-religious (or quasi-sacred) eggs in a different basket? As an axiological premise, "survival" -- whether of species or race or tradition or whatever -- may or may not be appealing, but in the present context it is being deployed in a way that seems to trade a divine command for a Darwinian one. If a person's understanding of evolutionary theory leads him to conclude that "oughts" ineluctably follow from a disinterested account of reality, then I say that person is still operating under the spell of religion. Teleology -- whether biological or cosmological -- is just another form of Godthink.

timcooijmans said...

Well, BennyBoy has taken the "who's to say what's important" route, which shows that he does not really find anything important. If his subservience to survival of the species gets in his way, he will simply shake off the belief that it is important, and maybe pick something else to believe in.

The difference, I think, is that antinatalism actually matters. I've been trying to convince him that bad is bad, and that it is indirectly a good thing to reduce future bad. The asymmetry shows that this is good despite that it reduces future good too. That's really all there is to it.

I wonder which (if any) of the arguments in favor of antinatalism he has conceded. He didn't seem to have a problem with the asymmetry, and if he concedes that bad is bad, then we are done (in theory).

(There is a difference in meaning between the two instances of "bad" in "bad is bad". The first refers to experiences that are subjectively experienced as bad by the subject, the second refers to what a group of such subjects (our species, or really, all sentient beings) finds bad. I don't think the difference is relevant.)

CM said...

I think what bennyboy was essentially saying was "well, bad is bad, but then it's somehow made not bad when taken in the context of [insert some arbitrarily constructed event here]". Another poster seemed to express a similar attitude.

It's like saying that some experiences are irreducibly complex. They concede they are complex, but then insist that they cannot be broken down into the sum of their parts (because there just are "goals", presumably). Chip is spot on about teleology, and it appears that his hypothesis has been empirically tested.

I recently read about a study where atheists and people with Asperger's were asked a series of questions about why some significant event (like getting sick) occurred in their lives. Aspies were more likely to invoke a natural cause or offer a descriptive explanation, while atheists said "no reason; shit just happens". So that shows that atheists tend to think teleologically, and then make a conscious effort to reject those thoughts (not always successfully, as we have witnessed).

So maybe we should venture into the Aspie corner of the intertubes. Some of them are neurodiversity advocates and take offense at breeders who don't want autistic children or don't want autistic people to have children. But I think they've been so hung up on the fact that autistic people's breeding is not worse than neurotypical people's breeding that they forgot to ask whether breeding is a good thing in itself. Since their thinking is not usually clouded by teleology, they might be more amenable to our arguments. Maybe some neurodiversity bloggers could even be induced to come over here and have a debate.

Chip said...

Speaking of neurodiversity bloggers, let's not forget these guys.

CM said...

Thanks for the link, Chip. Fascinating FAQ section. But were you being tongue in cheek? I mean, can it be productive to try to convince a sociopath to not have children? They've likely already figured out all the selfish reasons for not reproducing on their own, and the ethical ones would probably be moot. Especially when it's such an unpopular ethical position.

Chip said...

CM,

I agree with you. I just found the site interesting relative to the Aspie community.