Reading George Fox

Faith Not Reason

I left an extended version of this response as a comment on Keith Giles’s posted “Saved by Zero”. In 1936 Alfred Tarski proved that no formal system can prove its own truth, which is a pretty big impediment to using mathematics to justify God’s existence. Even if one could get around that, it’s probably impossible to prove the existence of God in any meaningful way. Trying to reason from fundamental physics (which we still don’t fully understand) or a logical system devised by humans isn’t going to get us there. In an extreme case, how would one tell the difference between a materialistic, deterministic universe and a universe set in motion by an omnipotent and omniscient watchmaker God? How can one be sure that a revelation is from God or from the natural workings of the human brain, which we still only rudimentarily understand? Or perhaps God determined that those workings would occur? There’s no there there. Belief in the divine/spiritual realm comes down to faith. As does disbelief in those things. And if understand correctly, Jesus said something along the lines of not relying on human reason but relying on him instead. Personally, I’m an atheistic Quaker with a…

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A Rigorous Response to A Sophomoric Argument

Berny Belvedere responds to Patrick S. Tomlinson’s Fertility Clinic Hypothetical: (1) The standard liberal position crucially involves the view that every individual has equal value. (2) In a scenario roughly comparable to Tomlinson’s, where a standard liberal had to choose between saving 100 random people, or their own spouse or child, someone who believed that every individual has equal value would easily and unproblematically choose to save the hundred random individuals. (3) But if a standard liberal were actually put in such a scenario, he would choose to save the family member. (4) Thus, standard liberals don’t really believe every individual has equal value. (5) The liberal position is a sham. This argument is unserious because Tomlinson is not arguing about what people would do, but what people believe they should do. The “standard liberal” (or at least a rigorous utilitarian) would admit saving family over strangers was the morally wrong choice and, if they had the courage of their convictions, they’d save the 100 people. We see this scenario played out in movies all the time. It happens three times in Infinity War: Quill and the Scarlet Witch make the choice to kill their romantic partner to stop Thanos.…

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A Response To Dave Winer’s Claim of Small Justification

Today Dave Winer linked to his earlier post claiming there was a small justification for the internment camps at the border. I’m going to leave aside the argument that there can be a moral justification for imprisoning these children. If a law is fundamentally unjust and immoral, the duty of the law-abiding is civil disobedience, not acquiescence. So, for sake of argument, it is moral1 to imprison refugee children, either by separating them from their parents or with their parents for an indefinite length of time. To justify such a law, for legal asylum seekers who have committed a misdemeanor2, the policy would have to be both by far the most effective and least punitive. Oddly enough, Winer himself has linked to the evidence that interning asylum seekers and their children does not meet these standards. ICE used to have two less punitive and restrictive methods: the Intensive Supervision Alternative Program (ISAP) and the Family Case Management Program (FCMP). In the former, electronic ankle bracelets were used to track asylum seekers and 99.6% showed up for their court dates.3 Regular phone check-ins and unannounced visits were also part of the program. This is hardly “catch-and-release”. In the FCMP, social workers…

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Don’t Let Those Bastards Own the Flag

Calling the atrocities un-American is important. We have dismally fail to live up to our ideals again and again. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and a rapist. But his words in the Declaration of Independence are America too. We have done terrible things. We have made a mockery of our rhetoric again and again. We have killed and tortured and raped and slaughtered. We must not let that happen again. We must rise to the challenge of our claim that all men people are created equal. Those who are torturing children do not own the flag. The true patriots are those protesting at the gates. Update 10-13-2018: Was looking back through the blog and noticed the gendered quotation.

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They Cannot Wait

This isn’t the preeminent crisis at the moment, but I wrote a response on the urgency of carceral state reform and thought it worthy to post directly on my blog. The full conversation is here. You are right that we need to work on getting buy in from the rank and file. But even if you’re correct and the system only fails 20% of the time, that’s thousands of innocent people suffering. They shouldn’t have to wait for justice because it’s hard to get the rank and file on board. Also, there will be times when it is simply not possible to convince them. If we reduce the incarceration rate to triple the European average, the majority of prison guards will lose their jobs. They are going to fight hard as hell to keep their livelihood. Or an example from Pennsylvania: if a former prosecutor turned Republican State Senator, multiple rigorous studies, and participating in a five year commission couldn’t convince the DAs to accept reform, the hill is a pretty steep climb. How many people suffered unjustly while we were trying to persuade them? So, at the same time we work within the system, we must also, as Dr.…

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Another Broken System with Good People

@dynamitemoth My unconscious came up with a perhaps less controversial parallel overnight. The American healthcare system is full of hard working, caring people who are truly doing their best. Yet we still spend twice as much as other rich countries while covering less people. The system is structured that often the best option is the emergency room, which is also the most expensive option. Insurance is so complex that patients need to make sure that the doctors treating them are on their plan even when the hospital is.1 A personal example: I was in the psychiatric ward of a well respected and good hospital. However, a private company had recently bought it and was cutting the budget to increase profitably. One weekend there were simply not enough staff. Those who were there were incredibly compassionate and good at their jobs, but there weren’t enough of them and patients ended up taking care of other patients. Which of course triggered us creating a shit show cascade of trauma. There were no evil or incompetent people, yet the situation was terrible. At one of the best hospitals specializing in a specific area of mental health. When the system is broken, the intentions…

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The Carceral State and Good People

@dynamitemoth They have the best of intentions, but it’s within a very flawed system. The reason that plea deals are used so much is prosectorial discretion: they’ll threaten to charge with more serious counts adding up to an incredible amount of years. It then only makes sense not to risk a trial. It’s also hard to believe that 97% of all cases involve a guilty defendent; that would require nigh infallible police and prosecutors. Also, here’s an explanation of how a federal guilty plea works and the absurdity it can become. Prosecutors are also loathe1 to provide evidence of innocence. There’s a ton of pressure of prosecutors to win cases, so they’ll even block the release of clearly innocent people. Expert witnesses and forensic experts are often relied on again and again even without evidence that the science has any basis in fact. There are a ton of incentives for detectives to quickly close cases, so they often settle on the first or second suspect. Police are taught to be overly defensive and often escalate situations. Once a department gets a SWAT team, they find reasons to use it. Military supplies and civil forfeiture create perverse incentives to play with…

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