Out of Eden: are we approaching a Golden Era?

Filmmaker Kevin Miller (whom I interviewed here) wrote an interesting new post on Patheos for progressive Christians.

We didn’t fall from Eden–we are slowly but surely crawling out of hell

US-ENERGY-OIL-KEYSTONE-PROTEST“A loathing of modernity is one of the great constants of contemporary social criticism.” So says Steven Pinker in the closing pages of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker, and many others, see such angst underlying many contemporary movements, including environmentalism, religious fundamentalism, aboriginal rights initiatives, and even zombie apocalypse fantasies. Though they look different on the surface, these trends all share one feature in common: a fall from Eden narrative. Supposedly, in some far-off, pre-modern age, we practiced ecological sustainability, family values, religious purity, economic equality or some other virtue. But technology destroyed all of that. Now we are picking our way through the rubble of the “downside of progress” with nothing but alienation, ennui, environmental despoliation, social pathology, fiscal rapacity and reality television to keep us warm at night.

the-fall-of-man-1570Interestingly, even the original Eden narrative can be interpreted along these lines as a “fall” from a pure hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agrarian/urban existence. After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam is expelled from the Garden and cursed to work the land: “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).

God goes even further with Cain after Cain murders his brother Abel, saying not even the ground will yield a harvest for him. “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:11-12). So Cain moves one step further away from the “purity” of a pre-agrarian lifestyle and founds a city, presumably to protect him and his family from his enemies.

The result of this descent from a pure existence in nature to one where humankind is enfolded by technology is a form of violence so ravenous that the only solution in the mind of the Creator is annihilation of virtually the entire human race. But not even that can solve the problem, because the moment humans are let loose on the planet again, they’re right back at it with their infernal technology, building the Tower of Babel in an attempt to unseat their Creator.

Tour_de_babelConcluding that “flooding an ideology out of existence” is futile, that even divine violence merely begets new and more complicated forms of violence, God attempts a different strategy with Abram, calling him away from human sacrifice and away from human civilization period. If Abram and his people are to encounter God, that can only happen in the wilderness. A return to Eden, if you will, which culminates with the wandering Israelites’ arrival in Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. However, it has been seized by those nefarious users of technology–the Hittites, the Amorites, the Cannanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. If the Israelites are to truly regain Eden, these techno-criminals have got to go.

I could go on with this interpretation, showing how the same anti-technology narrative might underlie the storming of Jericho, for example, which was done without weapons, or God’s warnings about not adopting a monarchial form of government, which would make the people subject not only to the king but also his machines of war. But that may be stretching things a little. My point is, if such an interpretation of even the original Fall narrative is at all correct, it would suggest that our pessimism about technology is nothing new. Perhaps a permanent aspect of the human psyche is a Janus-like tendency to walk backwards into the future, forever viewing the past through rose-colored glasses, because the reality of the future is simply too terrible to bear. Why is the future so terrible? Because that is where we will have to deal with the consequences of the mistakes we make in the present.

While I sympathize and often fall victim to this view, I see the “fall from Eden” narrative as one of the most prevalent and destructive myths afflicting our culture, because the minute we fall for it, the hunt for scapegoats begins. Who is responsible for our fall from grace? In previous generations, we tended to target witches, heretics, the Jews or even Satan, believing they had somehow “infected” our culture with their evil. If only these people/that enemy could  be eliminated, we could return to our original state of grace. The problem is, this so-called solution has never quite worked. Only in retrospect do we realize the futility of our efforts and the grievous consequences of our actions. And yet, we repeat them over and over again once a new enemy has been identified.

camThese days, for the most part our finger of accusation has shifted away from the perennial scapegoats of history to anything that’s big–big government, big pharma, big agriculture, big oil. In other words, the primary users–and abusers–of technology. They are the despoilers of the planet (never mind the fact they can’t survive without our complicity in terms of votes or dollars). If only we can find some way to stamp them out… You get the picture.

I see two forces at work beneath the fall from Eden narrative, particularly concerning our ambivalence toward technology. The first is our short cultural memory. If you read Pinker’s book or Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, for instance, you will quickly realize that romantic ideas of better days gone by are nothing but a cruel illusion. The history of humanity prior to innovations like modern medicine, electricity, fossil fuel-powered transportation, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. is a history of war, famine, disease, misery, suffering and death. I’m talking about 99.9% of human history here. Maybe more. As Pinker puts it, our ancestors

were infested with lice and parasites and lived above cellars heaped with their own feces. Food was bland and monotonous, and intermittent. Health care consisted of the doctor’s saw and the dentist’s pliers. Both sexes [and children] labored from sunrise to sundown, whereupon they were plunged into darkness. Winter meant months of hunger, boredom, and gnawing loneliness in snowbound farmhouses.

But it was not just mundane physical comforts that our recent ancestors did without. It was also the higher and nobler things in life, such as knowledge, beauty, and human connection.

Here is where unsentimental history and statistical literacy can change our view of modernity. For they show that nostalgia for a peaceable past is the biggest delusion of all. We know that native peoples, whose lives are romanticized in today’s children’s books, had rates of death from warfare that were greater than those of our world wars. The romantic visions of medieval Europe omit the exquisitely crafted instruments of torture and are innocent of the thirtyfold greater risk of murder in those times.

The moral commonplaces of our age, such as that slavery, war, and torture are wrong, would have been seen as saccharine sentimentality, and our notion of universal human rights almost incoherent. Genocide and war crimes were absent from the historical record only because no one at the time thought they were a big deal.

I could go on, but hopefully you get the picture. We may have invented the term genocide in the 20th century–and more efficient technology by which to carry it out–but the genocides we committed (are committing) are far from historical aberrations. They are merely business as usual under a new name. And the fact is, we are committing fewer and fewer of them than we ever did before.

ZombiesThe second factor that gives life to the fall from Eden narrative is our tendency to locate evil “out there” rather than within ourselves. We do this, because it is the path of least resistance. Defeating evil out there is far easier than confronting our own heart of darkness, which requires courage, humility and self-sacrifice. When faced with such a high calling, it’s so much easier to point the finger and pull the trigger. No need to think, no need to feel, no need to fear. We think we can defeat evil the same way we defeat zombies–with a bullet to the brain–a cinematic metaphor for the futility of trying to bomb an ideology out of existence. No matter how many zombies we kill, they just keep coming. And when we have to confront living, breathing humans who are not part of our little group, that’s when everything really breaks down.

Such apocalyptic fantasies aside, to quote Ben J. Wattenberg, “The good news is the bad news is wrong.” Contrary to some of our deepest held convictions, we didn’t fall from Eden. Instead, we have slowly but inexorably been crawling out of the hell of history. Much of the world is still mired deep within that hell, and there’s no guarantee we won’t all plunge back into it again (another fear manifested by zombie apocalypse fantasies), but it won’t be technology that takes us there. Rather, it will be our own pessimism, even as people claim their quest for Eden is bringing us closer to heaven. In truth, technology is our only ticket out of this hell, because technology is nothing but a manifestation of human ingenuity in the face of difficulty.

1280px-Roulette_-_detailAs science writer Ronald Bailey says, “Wagering against human ingenuity has always been a bad bet.” Unfortunately, anyone mired in the fall from Eden myth is placing this bet every day. They think they’re putting their money on black, but no matter how many times we spin the wheel, it’s guaranteed to keep coming up red.”


My response follows.

This is a nice post, Kevin!

I recently reviewed a book on Genesis paralleling your analysis on agriculture and hunting-gathering.

Ironically enough, the myth of the “sinful nature” we allegedly received from God Himself CANNOT be found within the text of Genesis

Yeah, it truly has devastating consequences. For it turns the Almighty into the author of sin since he could have decided not to curse the innocent descendants of Adam and Eve.
It is utterly disgusting and revolting to say that God would eternally torture us for sins we were bound to commit BY HIMSELF.

That said, we must keep in mind that Pinker is far from being objective and often confounds very speculative ideas with objective facts, like many other scholars working in the “science” of Evolutionary Psychology.

His statement that socialism is an anti-enlightenment force is both outrageous and historically ridiculous.

The Myth of Progress he defends can be dangerous as well.

Whilst physical violence might be in decline, there is no evidence that verbal violence is decreasing as well and that people are getting less selfish.

Actually, Pinker recognized elsewhere that our society is getting increasingly psychopathic.

So I’m not sure we really have strong grounds for feeling optimistic.

****

Kevin added this to his post as a response:

One might argue that the “Myth of Progress” can be just as destructive and can just as easily lead to a hunt for scapegoats–who is inhibiting our forward momentum? Eliminate them! I don’t deny this possibility. However, I can’t help but think that in the long run, an optimistic approach to life that encourages ingenuity and innovation and presumes the best of others will not only lead to a reduction in scapegoating, it will also take us further than an approach that is constantly tries to rein people in for fear of what they might do if they take hold of the unbridled freedom with which we have apparently been bestowed.

The golden era WP by realityDream

The problem is that I just don’t manage to get optimistic. Granted, there have been strong moral progresses in some areas in the Western World. But the contrary can be observed in others.

Wild capitalism is running amok.

In Germany, mentally handicapped children are now being almost systematically aborted like during the rule of the Nazis.

Bullying, selfishness and callous indifference are not diminishing in inter-human relationships.

Far from it.

But I guess this just shows I’m a thirty years old living fossil from an ancient age🙂

Maybe my mind needs to be reeducated in some manner. Is there anyone to help me?

 

 

145 thoughts on “Out of Eden: are we approaching a Golden Era?

  1. Ironically enough, the myth of the “sinful nature” we allegedly received from God Himself CANNOT be found within the text of Genesis

    Yeah, it truly has devastating consequences. For it turns the Almighty into the author of sin since he could have decided not to curse the innocent descendants of Adam and Eve.
    It is utterly disgusting and revolting to say that God would eternally torture us for sins we were bound to commit BY HIMSELF.

    You seem to be implying that “sinful nature” ⇒ “eternally torture”; is this correct?

    Whilst physical violence might be in decline, there is no evidence that verbal violence is decreasing as well and that people are getting less selfish.

    Indeed, from Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity:

        The worry has been repeatedly expressed that the individual lost something important along with the larger social and cosmic horizons of action. Some have written of this as the loss of a heroic dimension to life. People no longer have a sense of a higher purpose, of something worth dying for. Alexis de Tocqueville sometimes talked like this in the last century, referring to the “petits et vulgaires plaisirs” that people tend to seek in the democratic age.[1] In another articulation, we suffer from a lack of passion. Kierkegaard saw “the present age” in these terms. And Nietzsche’s “last men” are at the final nadir of this decline; they have no aspiration left in life but to a “pitiable comfort.”[2]
        This loss of purpose was linked to a narrowing. People lost the broader vision because they focussed on their individual lives. Democratic equality, says Tocqueville, draws the individual towards himself, “et menace de la renfermer enfin tout entier dans la solitude de son propre coeur.”[3] In other words, the dark side of individualism is a centring on the self, which both flattens and narrows our lives, makes them poorer in meaning, and less concerned with others or society. (3–4)

    Marc, what are your thoughts on this bit from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, quoted by Ralph C. Wood:

    It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains . . . an unuprooted small corner of evil.

    ?

    • “You seem to be implying that “sinful nature” ⇒ “eternally torture”; is this correct?”

      Logically speaking, no.

      In the mind of the large majority of Conservative Evangelicals, yes.

      • Ok, so it’s perfectly possible to believe in total depravity, without forever-hell? That is, conservatives could be part-right, part-wrong, just as those who deny both total depravity and any-hell could be part-right, part-wrong? Let’s be very explicit with our use of logical implication, shall we? Yes, people do it invalidly all the time, but that’s no excuse for us copying their sloppiness. Indeed, how are we going to improve things if we’re as sloppy as they are, but just in different ways?

        • You’re quite right.

          But if one combines the claims:

          1) We would not commit misdeeds if God hadn’t cursed us.

          2) these trespasses make us worthy of eternal torture

          3) all persons dying as non-Christians will be tormented forever

          one is turning God into a loathsome fiend.

          And the Gospel becomes one of the most terrible news one can imagine, unless one is extraordinarily selfish.

          • Who asserts that God cursed us? Let’s be very clear: God asked Adam and Eve to trust him, they didn’t, and when they realized they screwed up they still didn’t, and so God told them that there would be consequences for said distrust. Those consequences are described as a ‘curse’, but let’s not forget antecedents, shall we?

          • But that begs the question: did Adam and Eve have a “sinful nature” before they sinned? Some would claim that sin entered their nature upon their choice to distrust God. Others might claim that it got established by their choice to hide from God instead of run to him and ask for forgiveness. It is one thing to distrust God’s words/commands. It is another to distrust his goodnesss.

            I suspect that this speak of “ability to sin” ⇒ “prior sinful nature” reeks of determinism. Perhaps it comes from Aristotle’s potentiality and actuality?

  2. It’s remarkable how shortsighted some people’s view of history is (yes, some people meaning Miller). How long ago was WWII, the deadliest war in human history, again? Hint: I still know veterans.

    But man, we’ve gone through a few decades where we haven’t killed each other at QUITE the rate we usually do! It must mean that we’re in a golden age!

    • You don’t understand; I’ve seen Pinker’s TED Talk on the decrease in violence and the idea is that the % of people who experience violence, as a fraction of the entire current world population, is going down. Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory. Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed, nothing that you can kill someone’s ability to “self-actualize” (yeah, couldn’t think of a better term) while keeping their flesh alive. I’m reminded of this, from Jacques Ellul’s The Political Illusion:

      But to pretend that justice and truth are given their due is only a raid and a form of hypocrisy. Those who claim to do justice by condemning a man to death deserve the same accusation of hypocrisy that Jesus leveled at the Pharisees. What we find here is an ideological construct that man builds to justify his acts: these acts are useful so that society can function and survive. Bruckerberger’s argument was: If we pardon murderers, our society is done for. It is useful for the survival of a group to eliminate the nonconformists, the fools, the anarchists, the maladjusted, the criminals; and it is legitimate that the group should react in this fashion through its judges, its soldiers, its political men. It is the very role of politics to make this reaction more easily possible, for it is under such conditions that no one individual or group has to bear the responsibility. (90)

      A great thought experiment for Pinker is this. Suppose that there are a quadrillion occupied planets. Every year, the ‘worst’ planet, by some measure of violence, is simply obliterated from existence. But plenty of new planets are colonized every year. In this scenario, the % of violence could be much lower than the Earth currently experiences. Would such a universe therefore be “better”? If you’d rather a scholar’s argument, see Bruce Waller’s Against Moral Responsibility:

          Third, the debate is not about the efficacy of moral responsibility practices. If someone asserts that the moral responsibility system works well in preventing crime and improving character, there would remain the more basic question: yes, but is it really just? If we could keep a wonderful system of law and order by sacrificing one person chosen at random every year, that might be a tempting tradeoff; indeed, if God offered us such a system, we might well sign on (especially when we consider that otherwise more people will be wrongly killed each year). But we would still have the question: yes, but is it really just? Did the punished person genuinely deserve punishment? Perhaps the larger benefits of this system would outweigh the injustice done to the innocent person who is sacrificed, but that would not change the fact that the innocent person is punished unjustly. (5)

      Go, Pinker!

        • Appearances, of course. That’s all that exists! Surely you’ve read Ps 115:4–8? Oh, I also suggest Owen Barfield’s Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. A snippet:

          Now whether or no there is another kind of knowledge of nature, which corresponds to ‘engine-knowledge’ in the analogy, it seems that, if the first view of the nature of scientific theory is accepted, the kind of knowledge aimed at by science must be, in effect, what I will call ‘dashboard-knowledge’. (55–56)

          It’s absolutely delicious to have people first admit that QFT is 100% phenomenological, with no ontology, and then turn around and claim that fundamental physics shows us what reality is really like.

      • Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory.

        Does “ostensibly” mean “I hate this guy and since I cannot refute his arguments intellectually, I rather go with character assasination instead and make up this shit about him that doesn´t follow from anything he ever wrote or said in any way whatsoever”?

        A great thought experiment for Pinker is this. Suppose that there are a quadrillion occupied planets. Every year, the ‘worst’ planet, by some measure of violence, is simply obliterated from existence. But plenty of new planets are colonized every year. In this scenario, the % of violence could be much lower than the Earth currently experiences. Would such a universe therefore be “better”?

        Go, Pinker!

        Yeah…. the first words that come to mind here are “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
        Apparently, you don´t.

        • I don’t know Pinker enough to correctly step in to the conversation.

          I do believe, however, that his evolutionary psychological theories often go far beyond what the evidence warrants.

          And I would only feel good about our shared future if I knew that verbal violence is declining as well.

          For it can often be as harmful as physical violence.

          Scheni Grisse!

          • @ lotharson

            “I see no evidence that Luke is acting like an asshole as Crude did even if I might often disagree with him.”

            Good for you. I did not give my perspective idly. I prefer not to call people names, do not call people names without cause.

            labreuer: “Then let me clarify: if you realized that you were not responding to what you can verifiably know I meant to say, but that you were responding to how you think many people would interpret my words, then you would have the right to thusly switch. I think a person is responsible for the way that statistically significant portions of his/her audience interpret his/her words—regardless of whether they were ‘meant’ that way.”

            Humpty-Dumpty [labreuer] and Alice [Andy –sorry]:

            “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.

            Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”

            “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

            “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

            “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

            “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

            Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

        • Does “ostensibly” mean “I hate this guy and since I cannot refute his arguments intellectually, I rather go with character assasination instead and make up this shit about him that doesn´t follow from anything he ever wrote or said in any way whatsoever”?

          Yes, that. I cannot refute that the % of physical violence is going down, and thus my response is maybe that this isn’t the best measure of ‘progress’. But of course to suggest that is character assassination. And to possibly exaggerate? Oh, that is the worst of Andy Schueler Sins™!

          Yeah…. the first words that come to mind here are “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
          Apparently, you don´t.

          Does this mean you cannot refute my argument intellectually, and thus you prefer to go with character assassination instead?

          • Yes, that. I cannot refute that the % of physical violence is going down, and thus my response is maybe that this isn’t the best measure of ‘progress’.

            And if Pinker would have said something along the line of “all measures of physical violence have actually decreased over time, so everything´s peachy, nothing could possibly have gotten worse in the same time and there´s nothing at all to worry about” – that response would make some sense. But he didn´t, which you should know because this is not the first time that you “criticize” Pinker for failing to establish a claim that he never made in the first place.

            But of course to suggest that is character assassination.

            Nope, that was just a mixture of ignorance (because you had no idea what Pinker was actually talking about) + arrogance (because you criticized him anyway). But “Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory” was indeed character assassination.

            Does this mean you cannot refute my argument intellectually, and thus you prefer to go with character assassination instead?

            If you are six years old and didn´t yet get bored of playing “I know what you are but what am I?”, then yes.

          • Andy, do you think it’s extremely high probability that your average Steven Pinker reader/watcher, upon finding out that physical violence, measured in certain ways, has gone down, will: make no further conclusions about whether true *total* (or *average*) progress has occurred? Do you think the average reader/watcher will know that there are many ways to thwart and/or fail to promote human thriving, and that the decline in physical violence, measured in certain ways, could easily have been offset by e.g. other ways to maintain social order?

            You are quite right: my ‘ostensibly’ was, while an intended qualifier (I try to have all qualifiers be meaningful, apparently unlike you), not enough. That being said, right now I think I might be more concerned with the majority interpretation of Pinker, over and above what he thinks. And so, I say: switch my target of criticism from Pinker, to my conception of your average Pinker reader/watcher. I even have a specific data point: a conversation with a recent MIT PhD recipient. This person was quite offended when I suggested that Pinker’s results were not necessarily indicative of the world being a better place, on average.

            >

          • @Luke

            Andy, do you think it’s extremely high probability that your average Steven Pinker reader/watcher, upon finding out that physical violence, measured in certain ways, has gone down, will: make no further conclusions about whether true *total* (or *average*) progress has occurred?

            You´ve already asked me that and I already did answer that (just like I previously already explained to you that Pinker neither explicitly nor implicitly says what you insinuate he is saying).
            But here goes again: yes, that would be “true progress” with regards to violence and only true progress with regards to this one particular issue. And (also, again) those “averages” you have in mind are necessarily “Garbage in – Garbage out” values – you are comparing apples to oranges. Assume, that violent crime went down by 27% but 35% more families live below the poverty line, is that “net progress” or not? This is a nonsensical question and “progress” understood like that becomes a nonsensical concept, because this cannot be answered without comparing apples to oranges. I would expect the average reader of that book to take away the conclusion that yes, counterintuitively, there has been progress with regards to physical violence – and I would be strongly surprised if the average reader is stupid enough to take away the conclusion that physical violence is the only issue that could possibly be of any relevance for our wellbeing.

          • Correction, this:

            Quote “Once citizens are old enough to know the truth, MOST, though initially shocked and disgusted, are ultimately able to come to terms with the fact” – so you seriously try to argue that Pinker would consider it to be a “victory” wrt his plans of how society should develop if MOST(!) people do NOT(!) do what he wants to happen? You´ve got to be fucking kidding – this is the most transparently self-refuting interpretation of a story I have ever seen.

            needs to say “last step to victory” instead of just “victory”.

          • I refuse to let you pretend that the context doesn´t exist or pretend that you haven´t said all of what you in fact did say. Own it, all of it.

            I refuse to own your interpretation of my words. I refuse, and I will forever refuse. What I will own is the responsibility for ensuring that the majority of interpretations of my words are sufficient close to what I meant to communicate. The more we discuss, the more you appear to be in a distinct minority. Perhaps this is because of our cultural differences?

            LB: @Malcolm, it’s hopeless. Some here think that you can cite facts in a vacuum, without others drawing predictable conclusions based on their presuppositions/prejudices. Folks won’t have necessarily deconvolved all threats to human thriving, and physical violence is probably the most easily identifiable one. So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.

            This all being said, I should read Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature”. I’ve only seen his TED talk on the decline in violence, on this topic. Atheists should know what Jesus allegedly said; I should know what Pinker has written.

            AS: Interpreting it like that makes no sense given the context because you say that:
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – which means that Pinker is intentionally telling half-truths and wants to have plausible deniability for unspecified nefarious reasons (And I know that they are “nefarious” despite you never saying what they are because if they were not, he would not need plausible deniability).

            I have bolded the quotation and its source. I will let readers—other than you—decide whether I was imputing evil motives to Pinker, or merely saying that said danger exists and that presentations and books like Pinkers’ can easily be used in nefarious ways. I have as evidence that I did not so-impute (evidence I already presented):

            LB: Just FYI, I see Pinker as part-genius, part-deluded-idiot.

            Let the non-Andy Schueler reader decide. I do not trust you, Andy, to do anything other than attribute the most evil intention you can, to what I have said. Your track record, with me, is terrible.

            If I say that you strive for a christian theocracy where nonbelievers get killed, provide no support for that and then get called out for this, do not apologize for my claim, but rather just try to shift the goal posts to “Luke might not want that, but a non-negligible fraction of his readers might get that idea” then this would be dishonest – I would have insinuated terrible things about your character that I cannot support, and if I realize that I cannot support them, the only decent option is to retract them and apologize.

            I disagree: if my words are used to stir up hatred, then that is what they are used to do. If they have the propensity for stirring up hatred, then that is merely a fact. Whether I then intended to stir up hatred is indicated, gradually, in my future actions, especially if I have been made aware of the fact that my words were being interpreted in that fashion. If I do not intend the terrible thing, then I will take actions against said terrible thing. If I do not take these actions when made so-aware, then at best I’m ignorant/blind, at worst I really do have such intentions.

            I don’t know how the above wasn’t obviously true. Without something like the above, plausible deniability is allowed to rule, and that cannot be permitted, in my book.

            Grammar, how the fuck does it work? This was not a “clarification”, this is how the english language works. How about we ask an english teacher if this:
            “Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.”
            – could possibly be interpreted to mean a) that Pinker desires the murder of nonconformists per se instead of desiring b) that Pinker desires a society where non-conformists are murdered.

            I see a) and b) as both very live options. I have no idea how this bears on the situation though, as I repudiated that sentence of yours as “Slanderously false.”

            Seriously, shall we ask that question in some forum frequented by students of english studies and / or english teachers? I´d be happy to.

            Yes. If I want X to happen, one way to ensure X happens is to develop a society where X happens. You really are continuing to slander me though, by imputing a meaning which I never implied. You simply cannot show that Pinker would desire as “the last step to victory” for any reason other than it being a necessary transition stage through which victory is achieved. You cannot show that I have imputed to Pinker a desire to have a society where:

            LB: the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed, nothing that you can kill someone’s ability to “self-actualize” (yeah, couldn’t think of a better term) while keeping their flesh alive.

            Nobody desires the pain required for a bone to be set; instead, the pain is seen as a necessary step to victory. Likewise, you cannot show that I have indicated that the quoted text is something Pinker desires, except to the extent that it might be a necessary step on the way to victory. From the Trolley Car problem discussion, we know that Pinker is willing to entertain ugly circumstances as a route to victory. That is a fact. This does not mean that Pinker likes Trolley Car situations! It simply does not!

            Everything, because I have never accused you of something that is based purely on my idiosyncratic experiences of what theists are like.

            I shall test the truth of this, going forward. I have little interest in doing the massive amount of work that would be required to go backward, given that you keep your Disqus history private.

            The word “physical” doesn´t even occur in the text!

            I do not care; not all results of physical violence are evil, as BDSM makes quite clear. And so, what is important is the physical misery which is the result of physical violence as well as other physical actions which, regardless of intention, leave a person in a terrible situation which is not alleviated. If you really dislike this connection, then I suggest we conclude this conversation. My patience for it is growing thin, given how many ways you are attempting to nitpick and misconstrue what I have said. And yes, your behavior is extremely well-modeled as intending to misconstrue, and you’ve done nothing to show that this is not your intention. Thus, it is an excellent model based on evidence to-date. You’re welcome to falsify that model.

            Quote “Once citizens are old enough to know the truth, MOST, though initially shocked and disgusted, are ultimately able to come to terms with the fact” – so you seriously try to argue that Pinker would consider it to be a “victory” wrt his plans of how society should develop if MOST(!) people do NOT(!) do what he wants to happen? You´ve got to be fucking kidding – this is the most transparently self-refuting interpretation of a story I have ever seen.

            “Word salad.”

            Yup, he is a deluded idiot who desires a society where nonconformists systematically get killed and wants to manipulate people by telling them half-truths so that he can take them along for a ride to that society while having plausible deniability that this is what he wants to do – doesn´t sound evil or dishonest at all.

            You cannot show that I imputed such ideas or intentions to Pinker; you can only quote things I’ve said out of context, wave your hands violently, use the word ‘insinuate’ liberally, and hope nobody investigates too carefully. Do continue doing that; I’m sure you’re convincing many, many people!

            Oh, in fact I did so several times in our early discussions.

            Bullshit, on account of the use of the word ‘significantly’, as interpreted not by me, but by the likes of Marc or Randal Rauser, and perhaps Void Walker or The Thinker.

            Alright, then please show this alleged “unspecific argument” that I apparently do not perfectly understand (worse than that, I can´t even see it (did you use some tag which caused it to be printed with a white font?))

            Your claim was that I had no valid point or whatever with the Peter Berger allusion. Instead of asking for clarification, you accused, imputed, and insinuated. I am tired of this.

            Where are your formal arguments based on exhaustively studying what Pinker wrote?

            Maybe I haven’t done a good enough job formalizing them. You’ll have to show some good faith in order for me to do a better job, though. So far, you think I’m a “Lying scumbag”, which gives you full authorization to discard whatever you want of what I’ve said. I am unwilling to play under those rules. Demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Marc, that you are likely acting in good faith. One of us can email him and ask him for verification. Then, I’ll go forward. Deal?

            Cool, then let me try your defense here, I never once imputed evil motives to you in this thread – you are just misinterpreting what I wrote.

            Shall we ask Marc whether “Lying scumbag” is imputing evil motives to me? You can ask him whether I was imputing evil motives to Pinker. Or, if you don’t like Marc, suggest a different third party. We clearly don’t trust each other; is there a third party we mutually trust?

            That is not surprising given that in your universe, english sentences are apparently infinitely malleable and can mean whatever you want them to mean.

            Curious; I would have pinned that on some of your sentences. You know, stuff like “So I was being hyperbolic once and you are flat out wrong all the time.”, or (1) and (3). Maybe what is actually the fact is that you do infinitely mold my sentences, and thus assume they are infinitely malleable? Again, I don’t trust you, and thus we will have to appeal to a mutually agreed-upon third party. Perhaps Jonathan Pearce? I hesitate to mention him, because he’s a very busy guy.

          • I refuse to own your interpretation of my words. I refuse, and I will forever refuse.

            Irrelevant, because what we are talking about here is you trying to sweep the second half of this:
            “Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory. Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed”
            – under the rug. Not my interpretation of it.

            The more we discuss, the more you appear to be in a distinct minority.

            Cool, where are the 3+ other people that put me in a distinct minority?

            I have bolded the quotation and its source. I will let readers—other than you—decide whether I was imputing evil motives to Pinker, or merely saying that said danger exists and that presentations and books like Pinkers’ can easily be used in nefarious ways. I have as evidence that I did not so-impute (evidence I already presented):

            Yup, I look forward to those people who read this
            “Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory. Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed”
            +
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – differently than I do and put me in a distinct minority. Note btw that you “merely saying that […] books like Pinkers’ can easily be used in nefarious ways.”is also a completely unjustified claim.

            Let the non-Andy Schueler reader decide. I do not trust you, Andy,

            I couldn´t care less.

            I disagree: if my words are used to stir up hatred, then that is what they are used to do. If they have the propensity for stirring up hatred, then that is merely a fact. Whether I then intended to stir up hatred is indicated, gradually, in my future actions, especially if I have been made aware of the fact that my words were being interpreted in that fashion. If I do not intend the terrible thing, then I will take actions against said terrible thing. If I do not take these actions when made so-aware, then at best I’m ignorant/blind, at worst I really do have such intentions.

            Funny, none of the stuff after “I disagree:” in fact explains why you do disagree with what I said here.

            I see a) and b) as both very live options.

            Cool, then I see it as a very live option that you actually are talking about your favourite chicken soup recipe here and “Pinker” is just code for some ingredient.

            Yes. If I want X to happen, one way to ensure X happens is to develop a society where X happens. You really are continuing to slander me though, by imputing a meaning which I never implied.

            So lets do it then, shall we? Do you have a recommendation for a forum where we can find some experts in english studies or shall I look for one?

            Nobody desires the pain required for a bone to be set; instead, the pain is seen as a necessary step to victory. Likewise, you cannot show that I have indicated that the quoted text is something Pinker desires, except to the extent that it might be a necessary step on the way to victory.

            Yeah, well…. I already explained that my claim about what you are insinuating cannot be interpreted as meaning that Pinker desires the murder of non-conformists per se, but rather only to mean that he desires a society that would require that to happen. And this is in fact semantically indistinguishable from what you write after “except to the extend..”? Which means that you are actually conceding that my claim about what you insinuate about Pinker´s character and intentions is spot on, finally!😀

            From the Trolley Car problem discussion, we know that Pinker is willing to entertain ugly circumstances as a route to victory. That is a fact.

            And that is yet another own goal because the same applies to you – we talked about moral dilemmata before, mostly in the context of abortion – and you didn´t just flat out refuse to talk about moral dilemmata for the reason that you are “unwilling to entertain ugly circumstances as a “route to victory””, so, Luke Breuer is in fact also “willing to entertain ugly circumstances as a route to victory”, congratulations😉.

            I do not care; not all results of physical violence are evil, as BDSM makes quite clear. And so, what is important is the physical misery which is the result of physical violence as well as other physical actions which, regardless of intention,

            While the emotional mysery is completely irrelevant because…..?

            And yes, your behavior is extremely well-modeled as intending to misconstrue

            Extremely “well modelled” by your mind that is.

            You cannot show that I imputed such ideas or intentions to Pinker

            Using Luke Breuer “english”, yes, I cannot show that, using standard english, I maintain that I can and I look forward to testing that claim when we ask some people with expertise in english studies.

            you can only quote things I’ve said out of context, wave your hands violently, use the word ‘insinuate’ liberally, and hope nobody investigates too carefully. Do continue doing that; I’m sure you’re convincing many, many people!

            You are still deluding yourself that “many, many people” read this?

            Your claim was that I had no valid point or whatever with the Peter Berger allusion. Instead of asking for clarification, you accused, imputed, and insinuated. I am tired of this.

            So you finally concede that your claim that there was an “unspecific argument” instead of no argument whatsoever was false.

            Maybe I haven’t done a good enough job formalizing them

            No, you haven´t done any job of formalizing them – formal logic is very, very, very rare in online discussions and this entire thread does not contain a single formal argument.

            Shall we ask Marc whether “Lying scumbag” is imputing evil motives to me? You can ask him whether I was imputing evil motives to Pinker. Or, if you don’t like Marc, suggest a different third party. We clearly don’t trust each other; is there a third party we mutually trust?

            Oh, this is not the only thing we have to clarify, see above – and my recommendation is a forum frequented by experts in english studies.

          • “I have bolded the quotation and its source. I will let readers—other than you—decide whether I was imputing evil motives to Pinker, or merely saying that said danger exists and that presentations and books like Pinkers’ can easily be used in nefarious ways.”

            Knowing Luke, I would definitely opt for the second hypothesis. I really don’t think he aimed at smearing Pinker but just expressed his frustration with what he views (rightly or wrongly) as serious shortcomings of his ideas. Maybe he was a bit too impulsive and shot from the hip. Having ADHD myself, I can understand how this can all too easily happen.

            Countless people (inklusiv vielen deiner skeptischen Glaubensgenossen😉 ) do the same all the time on the Internet. You just have to take an objective look at DebunkingChristianity.com to see what I mean.

            So I think that your uttering “lying scumbag” was truly groundless under the present circumstances. It does not facilitate any conversation, far from it.

            I think, in general , that many conflicts (often even violent ones) could be avoided if people were to keep their emotions in check and only resort to such aggressive phrases once they’re reasonably sure that the person facing them is an asshole.

            Leichter gesagt als getan, gell?

            But all people sincerely believing in the Golden Rule should strive for this.

            Scheni Grisse.

          • Irrelevant, because what we are talking about here is you trying to sweep the second half of this:
            “Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory. Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed”
            – under the rug. Not my interpretation of it.

            Nope, I haven’t swept that under the rug. Nothing I said can be construed to mean that Steven Pinker would like to stay, forever, at The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the last steps to victory for the US over Japan; nobody wished to freeze the state of irradiated, tens-of-thousands-are-suffering, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nobody. It is utterly irrational to see the last step before victory as desirable, except to the extent that it brings you to victory.

            Suppose that somehow, the US decision-makers were given a guarantee that if they dropped one of those atomic bombs, the world would enter Groundhog Day, Window of Opportunity, or Cause and Effect, to stay there forever. Would those decision-makers then choose to drop said atomic bombs? I highly doubt it. Likewise, if Pinker weren’t what I called him—“part-genius, part-deluded-idiot”—then I don’t think he would consider such a step—which I think is false—to be desirable.

            Cool, where are the 3+ other people that put me in a distinct minority?

            I have been forced to have to simulate the minds of many different kinds of people well enough to socialize properly with them, given that I don’t do it automatically, based off of social cues and stuff. I was taught that emotions other than excitement were basically evil and to be squashed, and thus had to learn to simulate what was going on in people’s heads 100% consciously, well enough so that I wouldn’t commit various social faux pas. You, of course, have mocked the idea of simulating people:

            AS: Lukean bullshit like “simulating people”

            LB: The idea of “simulating people” is psychologically valid, at least if you think that Michael P. Nichols’ The Lost Art of Listening isn’t full of shit. This is how you get into other people’s minds: you start being able to simulate them so well that you can predict how they will respond to various stimuli. “If I were to say X, how would this demographic interpret my words?” There’s nothing bullshit about that question; it is indeed a very important question.

            The conversation just gets weird from here, with your talk of “you expect practically an entire dissertation from your interlocutor for every claim he makes”. Given that you like to say stuff like “you are flat out wrong all the time”, extracting sensible content from what you say is quite hard. I mean, when you say “a public scholar is thoroughly corrupt, intellectually and morally”, can that actually mean “a tiny bit corrupt”? Your habit of insane exaggeration really makes conversation quite difficult.

            I couldn´t care less.

            This pushes me closer to cutting off all conversation, for your refusal to read what I write in any way that approximates “charitably” means the effort to converse skyrockets.

            Funny, none of the stuff after “I disagree:” in fact explains why you do disagree with what I said here.

            Then let me clarify: if you realized that you were not responding to what you can verifiably know I meant to say, but that you were responding to how you think many people would interpret my words, then you would have the right to thusly switch. I think a person is responsible for the way that statistically significant portions of his/her audience interpret his/her words—regardless of whether they were ‘meant’ that way.

            So lets do it then, shall we? Do you have a recommendation for a forum where we can find some experts in english studies or shall I look for one?

            http://english.stackexchange.com/

            Yeah, well…. I already explained that my claim about what you are insinuating cannot be interpreted as meaning that Pinker desires the murder of non-conformists per se, but rather only to mean that he desires a society that would require that to happen.

            I never said that the “last step to victory” was desirable for any other reason than that it would lead to actual victory. See the atomic bomb discussion, above.

            And this is in fact semantically indistinguishable from what you write after “except to the extend..”? Which means that you are actually conceding that my claim about what you insinuate about Pinker´s character and intentions is spot on, finally!😀

            I have no idea how this logic works. It was pretty clear all along that you wanted to do precisely what you think you did, here.

            While the emotional mysery is completely irrelevant because…..?

            It correlates perfectly with physical misery, simplifying the situation.

            Extremely “well modelled” by your mind that is.

            Other than getting more minds different from oneself to intersubjectively agree, that’s the best one can achieve.

            You are still deluding yourself that “many, many people” read this?

            Well, I fail to see why you are continuing this conversation and pushing so hard, except so that you can, at some later date, quote something I’ve said in a way that would constitute character assassination in front of other people. Whether it’s now or later, no matter. Otherwise, why the hell expend so much effort? Is your life really that boring? I’m continuing because it is very clear that you are attempting character assassination, and that the contents of this blog may well continue to exist forever.

            So you finally concede that your claim that there was an “unspecific argument” instead of no argument whatsoever was false.

            I really have no idea what you’re talking about at this point.

            No, you haven´t done any job of formalizing them – formal logic is very, very, very rare in online discussions and this entire thread does not contain a single formal argument.

            Irrelevant: how formal an argument is not binary but a continuum. I firmly maintain that when attributing evil intentions to someone, the bar for argument and evidence is extremely high. You didn’t say “it seems like you’re lying”; you said “lying scumbag”.

          • @Marc:

            Knowing Luke, I would definitely opt for the second hypothesis. I really don’t think he aimed at smearing Pinker

            Maybe he didn´t want to, but I am talking about what he did. If I said this about you:
            “Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory. Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed”
            +
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – but am unable to demonstrate how this actually follows from anything you have said or written, would you consider this to be character assassination or wouldn´t you?
            Note also that Luke has actually in the meantime conceded (although I guess he did so by accident) my interpretation of what he was saying, he said in his most recent comment:
            “Nobody desires the pain required for a bone to be set; instead, the pain is seen as a necessary step to victory. Likewise, you cannot show that I have indicated that the quoted text is something Pinker desires, except to the extent that it might be a necessary step on the way to victory.”
            – and that highlighted part is precisely what I accused Luke of. He is insinuating that Pinker´s desires a society that would make it necessary to have non-confirmists killed!.

            Maybe he was a bit too impulsive and shot from the hip.

            That would be understandable, but he didn´t apologize or even just retract this outrageously defamatory claims but rather simply doubled down by saying:
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – Yet another outrageously defamatory claim that he cannot support by any evidence. And again, what would you think if I said this about you?

            Countless people (inklusiv vielen deiner skeptischen Glaubensgenossen😉 ) do the same all the time on the Internet. You just have to take an objective look at DebunkingChristianity.com to see what I mean.

            I´ll remind you again that we are talking about an accusation that someone abuses his position as a public intellectual to work for a society that requires the murder of non-conformists! – do you really think that “but there are other people who do it” makes this acceptable? Those are pretty much the most terrible things you can possibly say about the character and intentions of someone and if you say this without having some damn good evidence that those claims are true, this is very, very, very low – and yes, it would be exactly as low if someone at DC or anywhere else would do it.

          • “I´ll remind you again that we are talking about an accusation that someone abuses his position as a public intellectual to work for a society that requires the murder of non-conformists! –”

            Luke has been undoubtedly clumsy here, like most of us are now and then. But I think he just did not realize the LOGICAL implications of his insinuations. I don’t believe he’d accuse Pinker to secretly hope for the annihilation of non-conformists.
            This just doesn’t fit what I know of his moral character.

            Cheers.

          • @ lotharson

            “Luke has been undoubtedly clumsy here, like most of us are now and then.”

            You still like playing with words, I see.

            From my readings of labreuer over time, and in particular this voluble exchange, he is as Andy described him–scurrilous as it may be.

            labreuer has been like that and will continue to be so unless upbraided for his misconduct and disrespect.

            I hardly visit your blog or comment anymore for two reasons:

            1. Luke
            2. Crude

            From my perspective:

            1. Luke == Thrasymachus
            2. Crude == Hippias

            Just read their posts if you need evidence.

            cheers

          • Hi!

            Crude has been extremely rude in past posts and so I told him to take on a more friendly tone. He chose to no longer comment here.

            I see no evidence that Luke is acting like an asshole as Crude did even if I might often disagree with him.

            Cheers.

          • From my readings of labreuer over time, and in particular this voluble exchange, he is as Andy described him–scurrilous as it may be.

            Do you have any intention to specifically quote and source for this accusation, or is it instead that you like attempting character assassination with little to no evidence? Or perhaps: is all your evidence located only in this page? Please be specific, or let your silence indicate that your absence from this blog constitutes an absence of someone who carelessly attempts character assassination with no intention whatsoever to back up his/her claims.

            You see, perhaps I wish to be less ‘scurrilous’, but without enough examples of what others are calling ‘scurrilous’, I don’t even know what it is I’m doing. Should you think of saying: “You know what you’re doing.”—that’s what cult leaders say.

          • @Luke:

            I never said that the “last step to victory” was desirable for any other reason than that it would lead to actual victory.

            And I never accused you of saying that, not once, but you keep defending yourself against this imaginary charge because you apparently realize that what I actually accused you of is what you in fact did do, and that it is completely indefensible, but you are obviously completely unwilling to apologize for it.
            It´s over, you already admitted that my accusation was in fact spot on all the time:
            I never said that the “last step to victory” was desirable for any other reason than that it would lead to actual victory.
            Nobody desires the pain required for a bone to be set; instead, the pain is seen as a necessary step to victory. Likewise, you cannot show that I have indicated that the quoted text is something Pinker desires, except to the extent that it might be a necessary step on the way to victory.

          • And I never accused you of saying that, not once,

            You didn’t? Then what is this:

            AS: 1. Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.

            ? Oh, and the full quotation? Here:

            LB: Nobody desires the pain required for a bone to be set; instead, the pain is seen as a necessary step to victory. Likewise, you cannot show that I have indicated that the quoted text is something Pinker desires, except to the extent that it might be a necessary step on the way to victory. From the Trolley Car problem discussion, we know that Pinker is willing to entertain ugly circumstances as a route to victory. That is a fact. This does not mean that Pinker likes Trolley Car situations! It simply does not!

            I bolded the “might”, so that it’s clear that I am not saying that The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a necessary step to victory. It is merely a possible last step, in the logical progression of a smaller and smaller % of society experiencing the ill effects of physical violence: ostensibly only one person is experiencing any ill effects (aside from those who walk away). Well, the next step past that is nobody experiencing ill effects. Wouldn’t Steven Pinker want that?

            And yet, you cling to your:

            AS: 1. Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.

            Why?

            It´s over, you already admitted that my accusation was in fact spot on all the time:
            I never said that the “last step to victory” was desirable for any other reason than that it would lead to actual victory.

            By this logic, how were the US leaders not desirous that over a hundred thousand Japanese get incinerated by atomic bombs or die an agonizing death due to burns and/or radiation sickness? Furthermore, if it turns out that one cannot advance past the point of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas—that there is no way to get to victory directly from it? Well, were Pinker to be made aware of this, I think he would recoil in horror at the idea of getting stuck in this state. At least, I hope he would.

          • @Marc:
            I agree with you 100% when you say:

            I think, in general , that many conflicts (often even violent ones) could be avoided if people were to keep their emotions in check and only resort to such aggressive phrases once they’re reasonably sure that the person facing them is an asshole.

            That being said, I invite you to read this thread completely up to the point where Luke says this:

            Do you have any intention to specifically quote and source for this accusation, or is it instead that you like attempting character assassination with little to no evidence? Or perhaps: is all your evidence located only in this page? Please be specific, or let your silence indicate that your absence from this blog constitutes an absence of someone who carelessly attempts character assassination with no intention whatsoever to back up his/her claims.

          • @Marc:

            After you look at that, I suggest you see how quickly I said this:

            LB: You are quite right: my ‘ostensibly’ was, while an intended qualifier (I try to have all qualifiers be meaningful, apparently unlike you), not enough. That being said, right now I think I might be more concerned with the majority interpretation of Pinker, over and above what he thinks. And so, I say: switch my target of criticism from Pinker, to my conception of your average Pinker reader/watcher.

            Andy simply doesn’t want to admit that I fully made the above switch, very quickly. He wishes to continue to think that I am criticizing Pinker. Why? Well, one really good model is that it makes for excellent character assassination, even though the same logic would condemn many actions in war which were ugly means to a better end. Trolley Car, ahoy!

          • You didn’t? Then what is this:

            AS: 1. Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.

            An accusation that is supported by the evidence and that you have admitted to by now:
            “Nobody desires the pain required for a bone to be set; instead, the pain is seen as a necessary step to victory. Likewise, you cannot show that I have indicated that the quoted text is something Pinker desires, except to the extent that it might be a necessary step on the way to victory.
            – You can try to defend yourself against the charge that you never claimed that Pinker wants to kill people because he likes killing people until you are blue in the face, it is completely beside the point. You claimed that the society that Pinker wants requires non-conformists to be murdered, you claimed that Pinker wants to take people along for a ride to that society by telling them half-truths so that he has “plausible deniability” for his plan that REQUIRES THE MURDER OF NON-CONFORMISTS – an utterly despicable and libellous accusation, and one that you have admitted to by now.

          • You claimed that the society that Pinker wants requires non-conformists to be murdered

            Where? You keep ignoring the ‘might’, even though you keep quoting what I’ve said:

            “Nobody desires the pain required for a bone to be set; instead, the pain is seen as a necessary step to victory. Likewise, you cannot show that I have indicated that the quoted text is something Pinker desires, except to the extent that it might be a necessary step on the way to victory.”

            Tell me, Andy: did the US decision-makers desire that Japanese men, women, and children be murdered via slow, agonizing, radiation sickness and/or massive burns? Unless your answer is yes, the US decision-makers wanted this above and beyond any further goal, then this:

            You claimed that the society that Pinker wants requires non-conformists to be murdered

            is insane. Answer this, don’t ignore it: what are your thoughts on the US decision-makers who decided to drop the atomic bombs? Did they want Japanese to be murdered? Were they justified in murdering Japanese, given the total situation? Would anyone think that they would be happy to stay in a perpetual state of “Japanese men, women, and children dying of radiation sickness and/or burns”? Or instead, might a reasonable person think of the US decision-makers as thinking that the cost is terrible, but other costs are probably more terrible?

            you claimed that Pinker wants to take people along for a ride to that society by telling them half-truths so that he has “plausible deniability”

            Once again, let’s look at the evidence:

            LB (October 10, 2014 at 2:34 pm): @Malcolm, it’s hopeless. Some here think that you can cite facts in a vacuum, without others drawing predictable conclusions based on their presuppositions/prejudices. Folks won’t have necessarily deconvolved all threats to human thriving, and physical violence is probably the most easily identifiable one. So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.

            LB (October 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm): You are quite right: my ‘ostensibly’ was, while an intended qualifier (I try to have all qualifiers be meaningful, apparently unlike you), not enough. That being said, right now I think I might be more concerned with the majority interpretation of Pinker, over and above what he thinks. And so, I say: switch my target of criticism from Pinker, to my conception of your average Pinker reader/watcher.

            Look at that, it took a whole 1h22m for me to self-correct.

          • Andy simply doesn’t want to admit that I fully made the above switch, very quickly. He wishes to continue to think that I am criticizing Pinker. Why? Well, one really good model is that it makes for excellent character assassination

            Yup. That´s how that works. Let me try that:
            Luke is half genius half deluded lying scumbag who tells people half-truths about the Bible to take them along for a ride to a christian theocracy, nevermind that this would require some non-conformists to be “disappeared”.
            And now I will “switch” (of course without apologizing or even just retracting what I said above) and if someone asks me to defend those outrageous claims about Luke, I will just shift the goalposts to the effect that I think Luke has on people who read his comments based on my “models” of those people.
            Or, I won´t do that – just talking about the hypothetical actually makes me want to take a shower.

          • @ lotharson

            my last response is incorrectly placed; but I suppose you can understand to which post I replied.

            @ labreuer

            “You see, perhaps I wish to be less ‘scurrilous’, but without enough examples of what others are calling ‘scurrilous’, I don’t even know what it is I’m doing. Should you think of saying: “You know what you’re doing.”—that’s what cult leaders say.”

            firstly, just to clarify: i did not mean to refer to to you as being scurrilous; i referred to Andy’s words to describe you as being scurrilous. my error in not being clear.

            you are not scurrilous.

            an asshole in some of your postings? definitely.

            as much as Andy can be an asshole at times.

            as much as I am an asshole at times.

            that’s life.

            now, if you want to engage in a conversation/discussion that we can learn from each other, that’s ok with me. but, if you want to win an argument, i’m not interested.

            if you want to remain entrenched in your “Thrasymachus” character, i’m not interested.

            “that’s what cult leaders say.”–who cares what cult leaders say. tell us what you say.

            i want to learn from others; as i have, by and large from this blog. lotharsohn is a gracious host, even if he’s a theist. i won’t hold it against him.

            cheers

          • firstly, just to clarify: i did not mean to refer to to you as being scurrilous; i referred to Andy’s words to describe you as being scurrilous. my error in not being clear.

            And yet you agreed with Andy’s words:

            xx: From my readings of labreuer over time, and in particular this voluble exchange, he is as Andy described him–scurrilous as it may be.

            “he is as Andy described him”

            now, if you want to engage in a conversation/discussion that we can learn from each other, that’s ok with me. but, if you want to win an argument, i’m not interested.

            I want you to support your attempt at character assassination with specific, quoted, cited evidence. See, I am on a mission to become less-scurrilous, less-asshole, etc., as I can, in life. It is hard work, because much of the time, people make accusations without backing them up, or backing them up with one or two instances, which isn’t always enough to generalize, to see the commonality. It’s as if they believe that people who are very different from them will automagically read their minds, see what The Bad Thing™ is, and then stop doing it, all without any further help. As best as I understand reality, it doesn’t work this way—unless you only hang out with people who are quite like you. So, do you want to hang out with people only like you, or would you like to learn to build a relationship with someone who is probably quite different from you? The first bit of my learning from you could be to become less-scurrilous, less-asshole, etc.

            if you want to remain entrenched in your “Thrasymachus” character, i’m not interested.

            I don’t know what you mean by this.

            “that’s what cult leaders say.”–who cares what cult leaders say. tell us what you say.

            What I say is that I cannot read your mind.

            i want to learn from others; as i have, by and large from this blog.

            Attempting character assassination with zero presented evidence is not a good way to “learn from others”.

          • Where? You keep ignoring the ‘might’, even though you keep quoting what I’ve said:

            Yup, just like the christian theocracy that you want only might require the murder of non-conformists, the important thing is that you would consider this murder to be totally worth it.
            Go Breuer!

            Now, I will briefly quote myself:
            You can try to defend yourself against the charge that you never claimed that Pinker wants to kill people because he likes killing people until you are blue in the face
            – something I keep telling Luke over and over and over again, he mindlessly keeps repeating a defense against something that no one ever accused him of. So lets see what he does now:

            Tell me, Andy: did the US decision-makers desire that Japanese men, women, and children be murdered via slow, agonizing, radiation sickness and/or massive burns?

            And he tried it again!😀

            Answer this, don’t ignore it: what are your thoughts on the US decision-makers who decided to drop the atomic bombs? Did they want Japanese to be murdered? Were they justified in murdering Japanese, given the total situation? Would anyone think that they would be happy to stay in a perpetual state of “Japanese men, women, and children dying of radiation sickness and/or burns”? Or instead, might a reasonable person think of the US decision-makers as thinking that the cost is terrible, but other costs are probably more terrible?

            Yes, this is like Luke Breuer considering the murder of non-conformists to be terrible, but Breuer would consider it to be totally worth it for the christian theocracy he wants.
            Go Breuer!

            Look at that, it took a whole 1h22m for me to self-correct.

            If you sound like a broken record, then I don´t have to waste time writing something new either and can just quote myself:
            “Yup. That´s how that works. Let me try that:
            Luke is half genius half deluded lying scumbag who tells people half-truths about the Bible to take them along for a ride to a christian theocracy, nevermind that this would require some non-conformists to be “disappeared”.
            And now I will “switch” (of course without apologizing or even just retracting what I said above) and if someone asks me to defend those outrageous claims about Luke, I will just shift the goalposts to the effect that I think Luke has on people who read his comments based on my “models” of those people.
            Or, I won´t do that – just talking about the hypothetical actually makes me want to take a shower.”

          • @Marc, I need help here: I have little to no idea what Andy is actually trying to communicate, at this point, except that I continue to be an evil, lying, repetitive scumbag. Would you be willing to help out?

          • That’s all you wanted? An apology for the initial mis-targeting? Then I apologize. Good grief.

            Mis-targeting? Mis-targeting?? No, this is what an actual apology would look like:
            “I was wrong to insinuate that Steven Pinker would be fine with the murder of non-conformists to reach a better (according to his standards) society, I was also wrong to insinuate that Steven Pinker wrote his book with the intention to deceive – I have no evidence for either one of those claims and I am sorry”.

          • Mis-targeting? Mis-targeting?? No, this is what an actual apology would look like:
            “I was wrong to insinuate that Steven Pinker would be fine with the murder of non-conformists to reach a better (according to his standards) society, I was also wrong to insinuate that Steven Pinker wrote his book with the intention to deceive – I have no evidence for either one of those claims and I am sorry”.

            I won’t assert that, because that’s actually not what I see as going on in my own head. You cannot claim to know what is going on in my own head, Andy, you can only ever judge by appearances and actions, and make inferences from them which could be wrong. And so, you simply cannot infallibly discern between:

                 (1) Luke was thinking “Pinker’s likely readers/watchers” all along
            and
                 (2) Luke was originally thinking of Pinker

            Now, past behavior can make (1) or (2) more probable; Marc alluded to this very idea. If you have any such evidence of past behavior, present it! Otherwise, you simply cannot know that I originally meant (2), and the only later changed my story to (1).

            What I can apologize for was being sloppy with what I said. For that, I do apologize. I will, however, not accept false intentions you attempt to impute to me. I will never do this; my life has been majorly fucked up by people JUST LIKE YOU trying to do this OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. No dice for you.

            I apologize for using words that made it appear as if I were so-insinuating. I will not be made out as the evil one, with Andy Schueler being an innocent little angel. If anything, we are all sinners, not just some of us.

          • “What I can apologize for was being sloppy with what I said. For that, I do apologize. I will, however, not accept false intentions you attempt to impute to me. I will never do this; my life has been majorly fucked up by people JUST LIKE YOU trying to do this OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. No dice for you.”

            It’s my case too.

          • I’m sorry to hear that, Marc. It would appear that Andy has little to no idea of the spirit in which he is fully participating. It is a terrible spirit; it wreaks havoc on people, going as far as to make them want to kill themselves because hey, would the world be better off with fewer “Lying scumbag”s? Fortunately, I can now see that spirit for what it is, and call it out for what it is. Such a spirit is evil. One can innocently participate in it up until the point one is told what one is doing. Then, the innocence vanishes.

          • I’m still not convinced that Luke MEANT these two things in the first place.

            A more charitable interpretation would be that he thought that Pinker is utterly misguided (but honest) and did not realize the logical implications of his statements.

          • For Luke:

            Pinker is completely wrong and don’t realize what his ideas REALLY amount too.

            But Luke formulated it in such a way that Pinker seems to really desire these harmful consequences. It was a mistake that Luke regrets now.

            Am I right, Luke?

          • Pinker is completely wrong and don’t realize what his ideas REALLY amount too.

            But Luke formulated it in such a way that Pinker seems to really desire these harmful consequences. It was a mistake that Luke regrets now.

            I’m actually not sure I completely agree with the first (because maybe Pinker has a much more nuanced view than he has presented in the works under discussion); instead I would say that the impression I have seen his said work give “is completely wrong”.

            But yes, I formulated it “in such a way”, and have multiply admitted that and apologized for that.

          • During ideological confrontations, it’s all too easy to mistake sloppiness for evil intentions. This happens all the time during the culture war.

          • I will, however, not accept false intentions you attempt to impute to me.

            Oh, you got that wrong! I never tried to impute any intentions on you, you see, you cannot claim to know what is going on in my own head, Luke, you can only ever judge by appearances and actions, and make inferences from them which could be wrong!

            I will never do this; my life has been majorly fucked up by people JUST LIKE YOU

            Oh, you got that wrong! I never tried to “majorly fuck up your life”, you see, you cannot claim to know what is going on in my own head, Luke, you can only ever judge by appearances and actions, and make inferences from them which could be wrong!

            I will not be made out as the evil one, with Andy Schueler being an innocent little angel.

            Oh, you got that wrong! I never tried to make you out as the evil one, you see, you cannot claim to know what is going on in my own head, Luke, you can only ever judge by appearances and actions, and make inferences from them which could be wrong!

          • I’m still not convinced that Luke MEANT these two things in the first place.

            A more charitable interpretation would be that he thought that Pinker is utterly misguided (but honest) and did not realize the logical implications of his statements.

            Read the thread. Seriously, read the entire thread. Regarding “utterly misguided but honest”, Luke proceeded with this claim:
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – explain to me how you can read that as meaning that Pinker is honest.
            And later on Luke indeed shifted the goalposts (without retracting anything) and only talked about Pinker´s probable impact on his readers, however, he then said:
            “Pinker could deny any and all of what I have said, and yet that would be *entirely irrelevant*, if the statistical effects of what he says on the general population is what I have described. Pinker is too smart to be innocently ignorant.”
            – So Pinker is still being blamed for potentially absolutely terrible consequences, just for different reasons, and those alleged effects, those “logical implications of his statements”, are completely made up – Luke has no support for them whatsoever.

          • I’m actually not sure I completely agree with the first (because maybe Pinker has a much more nuanced view than he has presented in the works under discussion); instead I would say that the impression I have seen his said work give “is completely wrong”.

            You haven´t read the book in question and the TED talk you have seen doesn´t support any of your outrageous claims about Pinker and / or his alleged impact on his viewers / readers in any way, shape or form.

          • I’m sorry to hear that, Marc. It would appear that Andy has little to no idea of the spirit in which he is fully participating. It is a terrible spirit; it wreaks havoc on people, going as far as to make them want to kill themselves because hey, would the world be better off with fewer “Lying scumbag”s? Fortunately, I can now see that spirit for what it is, and call it out for what it is. Such a spirit is evil.

            Oh, you got that wrong! I never tried to claim that you are a lying scumbag, you see, you cannot claim to know what is going on in my own head, Luke, you can only ever judge by appearances and actions, and make inferences from them which could be wrong!
            But good that you call out those “evil spirits” – but remember, you yourself must lash out as often and as furious as you can, because it´s not bad when you do it.

          • I don’t believe that Luke is perfect. I don’t even believe he’s always acting in a fair way. None of us does.

            But I do believe it’s extremely noble and admirable to step back from one’s anger and forgive one’s enemy.

          • It’s ok Marc, I’m used to being a punching bag. It has gone from really hurting to being only a mild irritant. (Cue the accusation of me having a persecution complex.) Jesus was a punching bag, too. See Isaiah 53:2b “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, / and no beauty that we should desire him.” Consider that he was viewed as a bastard son by people around him, and Heb 2:10 and 5:8 start to make sense. If I get to share in the tiniest bit of what Jesus did, then I consider it an honor. I am sure I have falsely attributed evil intentions to others in the past. Hence the “Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, / Call out among the scoffers” in How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.

            Let other people operate on the ‘deserves’ basis; you and I and other followers of Jesus Christ can do our best to operate on the ‘grace’ basis. You and I can do our best to always rise above the current level of dialogue and adhere to the highest standards we can, regardless of the standards of the other person. This is terrifically hard to do, and I’m sure I fail at it repeatedly. I can only hope to get better and better, especially if there are others helping me out.

            Let others demonstrate whether they care about truth-seeking above all else, including mockery. Many seem to want to give off the impression that they care about truth-seeking above all else, when their behavior is better-fit by a model that places another intention at the top. I’m sure this has been the case with me as well; all I can hope is that people be willing to help me change in a way that actually works for me, instead of a way they think ought to work for me.

            I see no other way to make the world suck less; do you?

          • It’s ok Marc, I’m used to being a punching bag. It has gone from really hurting to being only a mild irritant. (Cue the accusation of me having a persecution complex.) Jesus was a punching bag, too. See Isaiah 53:2b “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, / and no beauty that we should desire him.” Consider that he was viewed as a bastard son by people around him, and Heb 2:10 and 5:8 start to make sense. If I get to share in the tiniest bit of what Jesus did, then I consider it an honor. I am sure I have falsely attributed evil intentions to others in the past. Hence the “Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, / Call out among the scoffers” in How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.

            Let other people operate on the ‘deserves’ basis; you and I and other followers of Jesus Christ can do our best to operate on the ‘grace’ basis. You and I can do our best to always rise above the current level of dialogue and adhere to the highest standards we can, regardless of the standards of the other person. This is terrifically hard to do, and I’m sure I fail at it repeatedly. I can only hope to get better and better, especially if there are others helping me out.

            Let others demonstrate whether they care about truth-seeking above all else, including mockery. Many seem to want to give off the impression that they care about truth-seeking above all else, when their behavior is better-fit by a model that places another intention at the top. I’m sure this has been the case with me as well; all I can hope is that people be willing to help me change in a way that actually works for me, instead of a way they think ought to work for me.

            I see no other way to make the world suck less; do you?

            Step 1: Make up the most outrageous lies about a public figure.
            Step 2: When you get called out for it, never apologize, never retract – fight back with all your might.
            Step 3: Pretend that step 1 never happened and that you are the poor little innocent victim – just like Jesus.
            Step 4: Give yourself a pat on the shoulder and be proud that you are better then those “people” who dared to call you out on your lies bash you for no apparent reason.
            Step 5: Profit!

          • @ labreuer

            “I want you to support your attempt at character assassination with specific, quoted, cited evidence. See, I am on a mission to become less-scurrilous, less-asshole, etc., as I can, in life. It is hard work, because much of the time, people make accusations without backing them up, or backing them up with one or two instances, which isn’t always enough to generalize, to see the commonality.”

            i posted a comment above–out of sync with this thread inadvertently. as far as i see it my post demonstrates your playing with words and their meanings. as such, i presented the dialogue between Humpty-Dumpty and Alice.

            so, lesson 1:

            refrain from playing loose with words and meanings. say what you mean, and when called on it, do not play with more words to complicate and obfuscate the meanings to try to “escape” what you said and what you meant. this is dishonest, and, you will be called on it. you’ve done this over and over and over and over and over and over …

            i admire Andy’s patience sometimes when he has to respond to your prolix responses playing with words and meanings.

            “if you want to remain entrenched in your “Thrasymachus” character, i’m not interested.

            I don’t know what you mean by this.”

            you know who Thrasymachus was, right. a sophist, and a sophist of the worst kind.

            “that’s what cult leaders say.”–who cares what cult leaders say. tell us what you say.

            What I say is that I cannot read your mind.”

            neither can i read yours; thus, we can exchange information only through the words we pen here. so, when you write something, please make it as clear as possible.

            lastly, i may be wrong, but from what lotharson mentioned, and, from what i gathered in some of your posts, you may have had, or still have some issues? i don’t mean to pry, but only to state i have no intention of bringing about any stress to you. my intent is to improve our communications.

            i’ll aver that too often, IMHO, apologists love to play loose with words and their meanings. lotharson does it sometimes, and it’s not quite cricket. and i know he knows this. and he knows that i know that he knows this.

          • refrain from playing loose with words and meanings. say what you mean, and when called on it, do not play with more words to complicate and obfuscate the meanings to try to “escape” what you said and what you meant. this is dishonest, and, you will be called on it. you’ve done this over and over and over and over and over and over …

            Please actually cite where I have done this “over and over and over and over and over and over”. Furthermore, let’s look at something Andy has done:

            AS: While my omission (if it was one, because I don´t trust you for a second that you didn´t use the sentence with “rapidly” as well) does not change the meaning at all […]

            Do you consider this an instance of “play with more words to complicate and obfuscate the meanings”? After all, here we have Andy explicitly admitting that the presence or absence of a word means nothing to him. Personally, I try not to use words extraneously. So to me, it really does matter whether the word “rapidly” is included. For more context, see (1)–(4) over here.

            you know who Thrasymachus was, right. a sophist, and a sophist of the worst kind.

            Yes, and yet you’ve not given me what I need to see how I’m being like Thrasymachus. It’s as if you pretend me to automagically mind-read you and see precisely which instances of my postings match up with Thrasymachus. Well, I cannot do this. I try not to behave in sophist manners, and if I am, I need it pointed out to me—probably 3–5 instances. Only then can I learn not to do The Bad Thing™. Do you think this is unreasonable?

            lastly, i may be wrong, but from what lotharson mentioned, and, from what i gathered in some of your posts, you may have had, or still have some issues?

            Yes, the issue is this: people love imputing evil motives to me based on appearances. Marc mentioned that people have done the same to him. You are yet another example of someone doing said imputing. After all, if I were only innocently emulating Thrasymachus, I might need examples of said alleged emulation. But if I were intentionally emulating Thrasymachus, then all you’d have to do is point that out to me, for I’d know precisely what I’m doing. So far, you’ve opted for the latter, the intentional version which imputes evil motives to me. Perhaps you could switch to the former?

            i’ll aver that too often, IMHO, apologists love to play loose with words and their meanings.

            I’ve seen atheists do this plenty as well. Above, you see Andy Schueler flat-out saying that the presence or absence of a word doesn’t matter. What the hell?

          • Atheists also do play loose with words.

            As do communists, capitalists, feminists…

            Yup, you could generalize it to: language is a tool and people sometimes abuse it. The question is whether it is acceptable for someone to unrepentantly do it over and over and over again, no matter how often they get called out on it.

          • I am partial to Josef Pieper’s Abuse of Language ~~ Abuse of Power. He was a Catholic theologian in Germany during WWII, and IIRC made it on an “enemies of the people” list. He got first-hand experience of sophistry and propaganda. Following that, Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes seems promising, although I haven’t read all of it. I’ve also watched a few Noam Chomsky lectures on totalitarianism in Western, ‘democratic’ countries: he claims that because you cannot use force to control people who don’t wish to be properly responsible, one must use psychological control, instead. C.S. Lewis worried about such “re-programming” of humans in The Abolition of Man. Ellul confirms such re-programming in The Political Illusion:

                This autonomy [of political power] has yet another source. Let us recall the state’s claim that it solves all problems and the concomitant, inveterate belief on the part of most citizens that it is indeed the state’s function to solve all problems. This attitude of man toward the state is even more apparent if one considers that man’s intentions and desires have changed.[3] He is much less sensitive and receptive to the many problems (over which he could try to exercise some influence); rather he demands the total and complete guarantee of his private existence. He demands assured income and assured consumption. He insists on an existence of complete security, refusing to take any responsibility for himself. But all this, as he well knows, can be assured only by the state organization. As a result, whatever a citizen’s “political” opinion may be, his appeals to the state spring from sources much more profound than ideology; they spring from his very participation and place in society. It is no longer true that the better part of all questions facing a society is not political. And even if a question is in no way political it becomes political and looks to the state for an answer. It is wrong to say that politics is everything, but it is a fact that in our society everything has become political, and that the decision, for example, to plant one crop intend of another has become a political matter (see Nikita Khrushchev’s speech of December 23, 1961). (78)

            Charles Taylor also chimes in on a related phenomenon in The Malaise of Modernity (chapter 1):

                The worry has been repeatedly expressed that the individual lost something important along with the larger social and cosmic horizons of action. Some have written of this as the loss of a heroic dimension to life. People no longer have a sense of a higher purpose, of something worth dying for. Alexis de Tocqueville sometimes talked like this in the last century, referring to the “petits et vulgaires plaisirs” that people tend to seek in the democratic age.[1] In another articulation, we suffer from a lack of passion. Kierkegaard saw “the present age” in these terms. And Nietzsche’s “last men” are at the final nadir of this decline; they have no aspiration left in life but to a “pitiable comfort.”[2]
                This loss of purpose was linked to a narrowing. People lost the broader vision because they focussed on their individual lives. Democratic equality, says Tocqueville, draws the individual towards himself, “et menace de la renfermer enfin tout entier dans la solitude de son propre coeur.”[3] In other words, the dark side of individualism is a centring on the self, which both flattens and narrows our lives, makes them poorer in meaning, and less concerned with others or society. (3–4)

                But there is another kind of loss of freedom, which has also been widely discussed, most memorably by Alexis de Tocqueville. A society in which people end up as the kind of individuals who are “enclosed in their own hearts” is one where few will want to participate actively in self-government. They will prefer to stay at home and enjoy the satisfactions of private life, as long as the government of the day produces the means to these satisfactions and distributes them widely.
                This opens the danger of a new, specifically modern form of despotism, which Tocqueville calls “soft” despotism. It will not be a tyranny of terror and oppression as in the old days. The government will be mild and paternalistic. It may even keep democratic forms, with periodic elections. But in fact, everything will be run by an “immense tutelary power,”[9] over which people will have little control. The only defence against this, Tocqueville thinks, is a vigorous political culture in which participation is valued, at several levels of government and in voluntary associations as well. But the atomism of the self-absorbed individual militates against this. (9)

            Want a tried-and-true mechanism for dealing with nonconformists? See Randal Rauser’s Is Peter Boghossian guilty of hate speech?:

            “There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.” Peter Boghossian A Manual for Creating Atheists (Kindle Locations 3551-3555).

            Or, our very own Andy Schueler:

            AS: You are absolutely impossible to reason with – and I repeat, you are either mentally ill or a pathological liar, and I strongly recommend that you seek out help from a specialist.

            AS: Don´t talk to me, talk to a professional – you need help, you urgently need help.

            AS: I am really afraid to read your name in the papers one day – get help before it´s too late.

            I hope Andy isn’t following this mantra, but his actions can be seen to point in this direction: “When in doubt, institutionalize them!

          • I hope Andy isn’t following this mantra, but his actions can be seen to point in this direction: “When in doubt, institutionalize them!“

            I do not care what your diseased mind makes out of those quotes, and I also do not want to engage you any further because I do not want to be partly responsible for you killing yourself or harming someone else. Maybe that all is just a big joke to you and yet another strategy to behave like an asshole without ever taking any responsibility for your actions, but I am taking no risks here – I will no longer initiate any dialogue with you and I am kindly asking you to stop replying to my comments.

          • I will no longer initiate any dialogue with you

            You made this claim once before and could not keep to it. Why will you succeed this time?

            I am kindly asking you to stop replying to my comments.

            Other than finishing up this little exchange, I would be happy to refrain from replying to your future comments, as long as they don’t smell like character assassination of me. So, for example, if I find you linking to or quoting my comments in ways I perceive as possibly constituting character assassination, I reserve the right to step in.

          • Other than finishing up this little exchange, I would be happy to refrain from replying to your future comments, as long as they don’t smell like character assassination of me. So, for example, if I find you linking to or quoting my comments in ways I perceive as possibly constituting character assassination, I reserve the right to step in.

            Do what you want. Whether you respect my wish or not, I will refrain from arguing with you – it is completely pointless anyway and you leave me little choice here since I do not want to share any responsibility for your suicide or whatever other exit plans you might be contemplating.

          • Whether you respect my wish or not, I will refrain from arguing with you – it is completely pointless anyway and you leave me little choice here since I do not want to share any responsibility for your suicide or whatever other exit plans you might be contemplating.

            An excellent parting shot, replete with a character assassination attempt. I love how you took this,

            LB: It would appear that Andy has little to no idea of the spirit in which he is fully participating. It is a terrible spirit; it wreaks havoc on people, going as far as to make them want to kill themselves because hey, would the world be better off with fewer “Lying scumbag”s? Fortunately, I can now see that spirit for what it is, and call it out for what it is. Such a spirit is evil. One can innocently participate in it up until the point one is told what one is doing. Then, the innocence vanishes.

            , and immediately assumed that I probabilistically am one of those who wanted to “kill themselves”. You didn’t ask, you assumed that it was probable enough to mention. It couldn’t be that I’ve taken intensive suicide prevention training classes and thus know quite a bit. Also: “exit plans” is deliciously ambiguous; they could refer to something small and unthreatening such as this comment I’m writing here, or they could refer to the next Columbine massacre or Sandy Hook shooting. Plausible deniability for the win, eh?

          • An excellent parting shot, replete with a character assassination attempt.

            Yes, that unambiguously was character assassination because the meaning behind your allusion to suicide was in fact crystal clear, while your behaviour in this thread and in others clearly never constituted character assassination. And I did that because I am a terrible person who is morally and intellectually completely inferior to you.
            Is there anything else you need me to say or do you just need the last word to feel victorious and superior – and leave me alone?

          • I am behaving entirely predictably; see:

            LB: Other than finishing up this little exchange, I would be happy to refrain from replying to your future comments, as long as they don’t smell like character assassination of me. So, for example, if I find you linking to or quoting my comments in ways I perceive as possibly constituting character assassination, I reserve the right to step in.

            In your comment right here:

            Yes, that unambiguously was character assassination because {the meaning behind your allusion to suicide was in fact crystal clear}[1], while your behaviour in this thread and in others clearly never constituted character assassination. And I did that because {I am a terrible person who is morally and intellectually completely inferior to you.}[2]

            There are [at least] two claims which constitute attempts at character assassination:

            [1] This is you deciding that you get to impute intention and meaning to me. Do this, and you get to character assassinate all day.

            [2] Nothing I said can be logically construed to say this, unless you add premises I have never uttered, or presuppositions which do not well-model my behavior in aggregate.

            Shall we continue this dance?

          • There are [at least] two claims which constitute attempts at character assassination:

            [1] This is you deciding that you get to impute intention and meaning to me. Do this, and you get to character assassinate all day.

            [2] Nothing I said can be logically construed to say this, unless you add premises I have never uttered, or presuppositions which do not well-model my behavior in aggregate.

            Indeed, both were attepts at character assassination because an Untermensch like me must a) never impute intention and meaning to a human like you and b) support every claim he utters with formal logic based on exhaustively studying and citing the source material, while an actual human like you of course never has to stick to either standard – in fact, trying to apply that standard to you is necessarily character assassination and I should be grateful that I am still allowed to breathe after trying to do that.
            Was that all or do you need me to say more?

          • Untermensch like me

            Let’s just be clear: who said what (and where) to indicate, in any way, that you are an ‘Untermensch’? Instead of insinuating, how about you lay out the evidence, clearly? Surely, if your interest is truth-seeking, you are up for doing this?

          • I think that before interrupting any contact with Andy, you might perhaps try to reconcile yourself with him, REGARDLESS of his alleged or real guilt.

            That’s certainly incredibly hard, but is that not what CHRIST demands from us?

            I’d realistically say that both of you did bad things during this discussion. Like in almost every human conflict.

            If I WERE you, I’d say something like this:

            “Andy, I still think that you acted wrongly about x…. but I also recognize I should likely not have done y….. So I apologize and want to tell you I respect you as a human being.”

            I think that such reconciliation with one’s enemies stands at the very CENTER of the Gospel.

            This is something that Crude has always been utterly unwilling to do. But I think you’re far kinder than him.

            Try to override your purely human logic. I’ll pray for you anyway!

          • I think that before interrupting any contact with Andy, you might perhaps try to reconcile yourself with him, REGARDLESS of his alleged or real guilt.

            At this point, I will need the help of a third party to do so. Right now, Andy sees me as mentally ill, a “lying scumbag” and in danger of suicide.

            If I WERE you, I’d say something like this:

            “Andy, I still think that you acted wrongly about x…. but I also recognize I should likely not have done y….. So I apologize and want to tell you I respect you as a human being.”

            Well, we have this:

            LB: That’s all you wanted? An apology for the initial mis-targeting? Then I apologize. Good grief.

            And this:

            LB: I won’t assert that, because that’s actually not what I see as going on in my own head. You cannot claim to know what is going on in my own head, Andy, you can only ever judge by appearances and actions, and make inferences from them which could be wrong. And so, you simply cannot infallibly discern between:

                 (1) Luke was thinking “Pinker’s likely readers/watchers” all along
            and
                 (2) Luke was originally thinking of Pinker

            Now, past behavior can make (1) or (2) more probable; Marc alluded to this very idea. If you have any such evidence of past behavior, present it! Otherwise, you simply cannot know that I originally meant (2), and the only later changed my story to (1).

            What I can apologize for was being sloppy with what I said. For that, I do apologize. I will, however, not accept false intentions you attempt to impute to me. I will never do this; my life has been majorly fucked up by people JUST LIKE YOU trying to do this OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. No dice for you.

            I apologize for using words that made it appear as if I were so-insinuating. I will not be made out as the evil one, with Andy Schueler being an innocent little angel. If anything, we are all sinners, not just some of us.

            What else is there to do? Note the snippet in the above quotation:

            LB: What I can apologize for was being sloppy with what I said. For that, I do apologize.

            As you can see, Andy’s response to that comment did not refer to that apology, and his response to you denies the possibility that:

            Marc: I’m still not convinced that Luke MEANT these two things in the first place.

            A more charitable interpretation would be that he thought that Pinker is utterly misguided (but honest) and did not realize the logical implications of his statements.

            Where is there to go from here, for me? Andy has made up his mind. Want to see an example?

            AS: You are absolutely impossible to reason with – and I repeat, you are either mentally ill or a pathological liar, and I strongly recommend that you seek out help from a specialist.

            LB: There’s an easy solution: request that a third party come and adjudicate. Are you willing to do this? And if the person rules against your “mentally ill or pathological liar” analysis, will you admit that perhaps there is deep error in your own brain?

            AS: You are welcome to show this “exchange” to anyone you want, it won´t matter much because your diseased mind will filter and rearrange all information in such a way that you appear to be always reasonable and always honest.
            Get help.

            LB: So you know you’re right—nobody could possibly indicate to you that you’re wrong, in any way?

            AS: Don´t talk to me, talk to a professional – you need help, you urgently need help.

            How is this not Andy insisting that he is right, 100% right, such that he couldn’t possibly be wrong? How does one reason with such a person? What haven’t I tried, that I could try, Marc?

          • Let’s just be clear: who said what (and where) to indicate, in any way, that you are an ‘Untermensch’? Instead of insinuating, how about you lay out the evidence, clearly? Surely, if your interest is truth-seeking, you are up for doing this?

            I am neither insinuating nor claiming anything, master. Since Untermenschen like me have to stricly prove everything they say with formal logical based on exhaustively studying and quoting the source material, we just parrot whatever the masters – who can declare what is true by fiat – tell us. Was that all or do you need me to say more?

          • What haven’t I tried, that I could try, Marc?

            You´ve tried everything even though you didn´t have to because you did nothing wrong at all – it was all 100% my fault and I take back and apologize for everything I said about you. And now, I would appreciate it if you´d finally stop replying to me or talking about me if that is not too much to ask.

          • You´ve tried everything

            Where did I assert this? Indeed, the bit you quoted,

            LB: What haven’t I tried, that I could try, Marc?

            , is a request for items in ‘everything‘ which I have not tried! It might shock you, but sometimes I need help from other people. The above is a request for help—for Marc’s help, in particular.

            it was all 100% my fault

            Says who? By what specific text, by what logic?

            I take back and apologize for everything I said about you.

            Why ought I believe this? I’m open to being convinced, but it’ll have to be based on actually showing why you take back what you said. That is, will you take it back because it was unsubstantiated (and you could admit why you now believe it to be unsubstantiated whereas before you thought it was quite substantiated)? Be clear and articulate, please. Otherwise, it looks too much like a false apology.

            And now, I would appreciate it if you´d finally stop replying to me or talking about me if that is not too much to ask.

            You know what to do in order to get me to stop replying:

            LB: Other than finishing up this little exchange, I would be happy to refrain from replying to your future comments, as long as they don’t smell like character assassination of me. So, for example, if I find you linking to or quoting my comments in ways I perceive as possibly constituting character assassination, I reserve the right to step in.

            What you seem to prefer doing, though, is making claims that could be reasonably interpreted as character assassination. As long as they smell of character assassination, I will continue responding. I will do what I said I will do.

          • What you seem to prefer doing, though, is making claims that could be reasonably interpreted as character assassination. As long as they smell of character assassination, I will continue responding.

            You are of course completely right, that, like every other comment I wrote to or about you, was indeed character assassination. If it would finally cause you to stop replying to me or talk about me – could you please write down a retraction / apology that would be deemed worthy by you so that I can repeat it?

          • You are of course completely right, that, like every other comment I wrote to or about you, was indeed character assassination.

            Where did I assert or imply anything like this? If you cannot show this, then this is yet another example of attempted character assassination. I would never utter something like what I have just quoted of you, here! Many things you have said to me were quite instructive, without a trace of attempted character assassination.

            If it would finally cause you to stop replying to me or talk about me – could you please write down a retraction / apology that would be deemed worthy by you so that I can repeat it?

            You already know what will cause me to stop:

            LB: Other than finishing up this little exchange, I would be happy to refrain from replying to your future comments, as long as they don’t smell like character assassination of me. So, for example, if I find you linking to or quoting my comments in ways I perceive as possibly constituting character assassination, I reserve the right to step in.

            You quoted that, and I quoted it twice (#1, #2). What you need to do, to stop me from responding, is to cease imputing to me statements which I have never said/implied, and to cease writing things that could reasonably be taken as imputing to me statements which I have never said/implied.

            Unlike your repeated attempts—or behavior that certainly appears like repeated attempts—I have no intention of stuffing words in your mouth, even if you are willing to parrot them back as if they honestly come from your heart. No: say what you believe, be willing to be truly corrected, but don’t pretend you believe things you do not. If you think you’ve uttered any false statements about me, feel free to retract them. Use your judgment, not mine. Or, you could just heed the conditions I’ve repeatedly laid out.

          • You quoted that, and I quoted it twice (#1, #2). What you need to do, to stop me from responding, is to cease imputing to me statements which I have never said/implied, and to cease writing things that could reasonably be taken as imputing to me statements which I have never said/implied.

            Ok, lets try one last time:
            – I don´t know anything about what Luke Breuer did or did not claim, meant, thought, did or [generic placeholder for verbs] here or anywhere else.
            – I unconditionally retract and apologize for everything I ever wrote here or anywhere else, which Luke Breuer would consider to be statements that impute anything to him.
            Can you now please stop replying to me or talking about me?

          • – I don´t know anything about what Luke Breuer did or did not claim, meant, thought, did or [generic placeholder for verbs] here or anywhere else.
            – I unconditionally retract and apologize for everything I ever wrote here or anywhere else, which Luke Breuer would consider to be statements that impute anything to him.

            Are these true, by your best judgment? You obviously cannot swear on a Bible and have it mean anything. So instead, I would merely ask you to assert that you are not claiming that these are things I would say; instead, they are things that Andy Schueler asserts entirely of his own accord, because they are [likely] true, not because they are something someone else wants to hear. If you confirm that, and abide by my conditions, that seems plenty good to me. As it is, it kinda sounds like I would utter your two bullet points; I wouldn’t! I would assert that you’ve been correct, some of the time. But hey, if you want to disagree with me on that, of your own accord, be my guest.

          • Neither did I enjoy it. Indeed, I have learned quite a bit from Andy; it is sad that that will end. I’m not sure what he ever learned from me; he always seemed cagey on that matter. Indeed, I’m still at a fair loss as to why he ever engaged me. I guess I will never find out.:-/

          • That would be awesome and a sight to behold. A mentor of mine claims that the judgment seat of Christ won’t be a picnic for anyone. That is: reconciliation will not be free from cost.

          • It’s hard for Luke to stop a dispute. It’s hard for him to stop a conversation.

            It might be related to his having ADHD. In my case this doesn’t lead to such outcomes because I have grown more peaceful over the years.

            He has indeed some traumatic experiences behind and has been severely bullied during his young years.

            But I am convinced that he’s a really lovely person deep inside.

            So if the best solution consists of ignoring each other, try to hold yourself to it.

          • It’s hard for Luke to stop a dispute. It’s hard for him to stop a conversation.

            Marc, the thing that is hard is for me to let someone look like he/she is imputing to me a view and/or intentions which I do not hold. Surely it is rational to dislike this; surely it is rational to object to this?

            I do in general like pursuing conversations, because it takes a while to get even possibly close to new territory. But this is a special case, and I would like you to fully recognize that.

          • The problem is that in this specific case it was utterly unproductive anyway. Äusserst unproduktiv.

            Both Andy and you grew weary and wary and now you’re completely fed up with each other.

            You should learn to LET GO of things at times.

            I guess this was very straining for you as well, wasn’t it?

          • I guess this was very straining for you as well, wasn’t it?

            Past times? Yes. This time? Not so much. I am too used to shenanigans like his for them to faze me too much. All I can do, moving forward, is to be ever-more careful with what I say, such that there are fewer and fewer ways to misinterpret it. I think this is actually what is meant by 1 Timothy 3:2a’s “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach”—I think the reason for this is protection of the ‘overseer’ is against false accusations or slight misunderstandings that blow up out of all proportion.

            And so, once again, I attempt to whip myself into ever-better obedience to law. It does not save me from God, but it can indeed save me from humans.

          • I would merely ask you to assert that you are not claiming that these are things I would say; instead, they are things that Andy Schueler asserts entirely of his own accord

            Done. And now I expect you to honor your promise and never respond to me or talk about me ever again.

          • And now I expect you to honor your promise and never respond to me or talk about me ever again.

            No, I never agreed to the clause, “or talk about me ever again”. Here is what you originally said:

            AS: I will no longer initiate any dialogue with you and I am kindly asking you to stop replying to my comments.

            It is that to which I agreed. I will certainly do my best not to say anything false about your imply anything false about you, and if I am in danger of doing so, I will not be surprised if you pipe up to correct what I have said. If I quote what you have said to anyone, I will always link to the source so that anyone can see the full context.

          • Luke, PLEASE never mention Andy on my blog again.

            I strongly advise you to give up this idea everywhere.

            Nothing good is going to come out of it.

            This would be very unpleasant for both of you.

          • Luke, PLEASE never mention Andy on my blog again.

            Since you ask that and it is your blog, I will oblige and stop reading it if I find myself too unwilling to oblige. I don’t foresee the latter happening, though.

            I strongly advise you to give up this idea everywhere.

            Nothing good is going to come out of it.

            I simply cannot see the future well enough to be sure that what you say is true. Perhaps you can? Suppose, for example, that someone else comes along and starts trying to impute views to me which I do not hold. Perhaps it would be useful to examine how that has been done in the past, and even cite it as an example. Others have attempted to impute views to me I don’t hold, views which would show me to be stupid, evil, and/or ignorant. It is not an uncommon tactic.

            Were forgiveness asked for, that is another matter.

          • As soon as you see that a discussion is running amok, you should say something like:

            “Hey, there is no need for us to become disagreeable. If I unwittingly offended you, I sincerely apologize. I’m really seeking for an interesting conversation, not a loveless argument.”

            ********
            ” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

            “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespass”

            “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. ”

            ” Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. ”
            ******

            Nearly endless debates are okay if it’s pleasant for both parties. Otherwise they can all too easily spawn anger and even hatred.

            Such discussions are doing you no favor. They’re truly straining you.
            Your time is too precious for them because they don’t bring anything positive.

            So if the other person is unwilling to make a reconciliation step you should REFRAIN from answering, however tempting that might be.

            I’m saying this for the health of your soul, Luke.

          • As soon as you see that a discussion is running amok, you should say something like:

            Why? Using the word ‘should’ is very dangerous, Marc. Love does not compel.

            Such discussions are doing you no favor. They’re truly straining you.

            Are you claiming to read my mind better than I am? I don’t claim that this is never possible, but I do worry that you are projecting onto me, instead of realizing that perhaps I am quite different from you.

            Your time is too precious for them because they don’t bring anything positive.

            And yet, I claim I extracted positive, useful information and wisdom from the discussions I persistently engaged in. Are you claiming that I have deceived myself? If so, I would like you to make an argument for that instead of a bare assertion.

            I’m saying this for the health of your soul, Luke.

            Marc, I’m going to get slightly harsh. I don’t particularly trust your measure of “the health of [one’s] soul”, given what I see as an overemphasis on ‘niceness’. As far as I can tell, the biblical concept is ‘gentleness’, a topic upon which I’ve taken considerable notes. Furthermore, you have a history of not being particularly fine in your discernment between good and evil, or as I prefer, from Heb 5:14:

            kalos: beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable

            kakos: not such as it ought to be

            An example of this would be your slow arrival at the fact that John Shore made some good points and bad points, with very questionable means. It is my impression that you have shown tendencies to label X as 100% good or 100% evil, in deed if not explicit word. I think this is extremely dangerous. I think that ever-finer discernment is a must, especially if you are giong to care for the health of others’ souls.

            Finally, I believe the following is true:

            Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (Rom 12:9)

            For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor 10:3–6)

            Do you? (I recognize that we may interpret these differently; I would be happy to discuss these to see what differences may exist.)

          • It is that to which I agreed. I will certainly do my best not to say anything false about your imply anything false about you, and if I am in danger of doing so, I will not be surprised if you pipe up to correct what I have said.

            If you must do so, I won´t stay around to watch it.

            @Marc: I bid you adieu – you´re a great guy and I don´t blame you for anything at all, but I find it very hard to simply ignore claims being made about me and I´d honestly rather stab myself in the eye with a rusty fork than be forced into another “dialog” with Luke Breuer.

          • Wenn es so sein muss😦

            Vielleicht könnte ich aber ganz privat deine Meinung über manche Posten fragen, oder?

            Ich werde sowieso Luke sagen, dass er dich auf meinem Blog nicht mehr erwähnen darf.

            Awer jetzt bin ich gonz mid un muss ziemlich bal inschlofe [:-)

        • I fail to see the character assassination. The question here is, what is “progress” and what will you do to achieve it, right?

          In a way, this is the ultimate question throughout all of human history, isn’t it?

          • I fail to see the character assassination. The question here is, what is “progress” and what will you do to achieve it, right?

            Pinker points out that physical violence has, counterintuitively, actually decreased over time, no matter which measure for physical violence you are looking at. Everything else being equal, I think no one would disagree that this is “progress”. Pinker neither explicitly nor implicitly says that this is the only form or progress that matters, or the most important one, or that there is nothing of importance that has actually gotten *worse* – but Luke keeps insinuating that he did (and not for the first time). There is also nothing in what he wrote that in ANY way suggests that Pinker would see the society described in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as a good thing – and saying that he would is indeed character assassination.

          • It’s not so much a matter of claiming he said that than it is a matter of pointing out that using the measure of decreasing violence (using what measure? The amount of murders committed? The percentage? What?) can lead us to problems in and of itself – like an “Omelas” society.

          • @Malcolm, it’s hopeless. Some here think that you can cite facts in a vacuum, without others drawing predictable conclusions based on their presuppositions/prejudices. Folks won’t have necessarily deconvolved all threats to human thriving, and physical violence is probably the most easily identifiable one. So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.

            This all being said, I should read Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature”. I’ve only seen his TED talk on the decline in violence, on this topic. Atheists should know what Jesus allegedly said; I should know what Pinker has written.

            >

          • It’s not so much a matter of claiming he said that than it is a matter of pointing out that using[1] the measure of decreasing violence (using what measure?[2] The amount of murders committed? The percentage? What?) can lead us to problems in and of itself – like an “Omelas” society.[3]

            1. What do you mean by “using”? “Using” for what?
            2. Pretty much everything you can think of, from violent crimes to casualties (civilians and combatants) in war.
            3. How do you get from observing that violence did decrease to an Omelas society?

          • @Luke:

            it’s hopeless. Some here think that you can cite facts in a vacuum, without others drawing predictable conclusions based on their presuppositions/prejudices.

            Right…. You recently mourned that people nowadays are so ignorant about the Bible. And you obviously can´t just cite such a fact in a vacuum. So I guess you don´t mind that I draw some “predictable conclusions” based on your “presuppositions”, right?
            Like “A great thought experiment for Breuer is this. Suppose that there are a quadrillion occupied planets. Every year, the ‘worst’ planet, by some measure of biblical literacy, is simply obliterated from existence. But plenty of new planets are colonized every year. In this scenario, the % of biblical literacy could be much higher than the Earth currently experiences.
            Go Breuer!”
            That would be perfectly reasonable and fair, right?

            So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.

            I would ask “what ride is that supposed to be?”, “plausible deniability of *what*?” and “how the fuck do you know any of this?”, but I guess that would be pointless because you are simply pulling this nonsense out of your nether regions.

          • You’re welcome to actually make an argument. Until you do, I can’t do much with what you’ve said, given how much you have exaggerated lately, if not always. So perhaps you pulled something out of your “nether regions”, mixed it with what I said, and then got all surprised and stuff that it smelled like shit. Or perhaps not. Make an argument, cite what I’ve actually said instead of what’s in your error-prone memory, and we can go from there.

            >

          • You’re welcome to actually make an argument.

            Ah, so if you want to bear false witness against your neighbor, then you don´t need any arguments, you can just pretend that those are “predictable conclusions” based on someone´s alleged “presuppositions”.
            But if this is being turned around and used against you, then an argument is obviously needed.
            There are some good Bible verses about bearing false witness and hypocrisy, but I´m too lazy to look them up and you most likely know them anyway and just don´t care much about them.

          • Do you really have no clue what plausible deniability is, how you can manipulate by conveniently including some facts and excluding others, letting people draw statistically reliable conclusions as a result? Suppose you do know these things. Then how do you know that Steven Pinker is engaged in none of the above (strictly speaking: highly unlikely to be engaging in the above), in the two scenarios under discussion? You are right: I have no direct, conclusive evidence. Pinker could deny any and all of what I have said, and yet that would be *entirely irrelevant*, if the statistical effects of what he says on the general population is what I have described. Pinker is too smart to be innocently ignorant. See Noam Chomsky on the responsibility intellectuals have to society.

            When it comes to people like Pinker, I care very little what he self-evaluates his intentions to be; if they mismatch his impact on people, then I say he is responsible for the impact he has on people. If you do not allow this mode of measurement and judgment, you’re living in LaLa Land.

            And so, we’re reduced to our respective “other people simulators”. I trust mine a helluva lot more than yours, given previous discussions and the fact that I have encountered specific targets of Pinker’s literature, who have interpreted it as I have described—e.g. a recent MIT PhD recipient. These people exist, and I suspect they exist in large numbers. You, it seems, do not believe this. Oh well. So I suggest: keep the accusations flowing. They make your case seem quite sound, quite believable, especially as you bear false witness about me and my alleged continual defense of LFW.

            >

          • @Luke,

            First, lets reiterate what you insinuate about Pinker´s character and intentions:

            “Ostensibly, he’d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory.Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed”[1]

            “A great thought experiment for Pinker is this. Suppose that there are a quadrillion occupied planets. Every year, the ‘worst’ planet, by some measure of violence, is simply obliterated from existence. But plenty of new planets are colonized every year. In this scenario, the % of violence could be much lower than the Earth currently experiences. Would such a universe therefore be “better”?”[2]

            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”[3]

            So, what do we have here:
            1. Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.
            2. A great thought experiment for Pinker because he presumably believes that the rates of all kinds of physical violence are all that could possibly matter morally and every action that reduces them is therefore morally justified.
            3. Pinker has written his book not to inform but rather to deceive because he wants to manipulate people and “take them along for a ride”, a ride to…. *insert ominous music here and show some KZ pictures*

            And now lets see your justification for that:

            Do you really have no clue what plausible deniability is…

            I didn´t ask you what plausible deniability is, I wrote “I would ask “what ride is that supposed to be?”, “plausible deniability of *what*?” and “how the fuck do you know any of this?””
            Are you trying to deceive here or is your reading comprehension *that* terrible?

            how you can manipulate by conveniently including some facts and excluding others, letting people draw statistically reliable conclusions as a result?

            Which Steven Pinker obviously did, as was conclusively demonstrated with plenty of “evidence” out of Luke Breuer´s ass.

            Then how do you know that Steven Pinker is engaged in none of the above (strictly speaking: highly unlikely to be engaging in the above), in the two scenarios under discussion?

            So, when some random troll makes up bullshit about Pinker, he is presumed guilty until proven innocent? Nope, that´s not how that works actually.

            You are right: I have no direct, conclusive evidence.

            You also have no “indirect, flimsy evidence” or anything else to support your bullshit.

            And so, we’re reduced to our respective “other people simulators”. I trust mine a helluva lot more than yours, given previous discussions and the fact that I have encountered specific targets of Pinker’s literature, who have interpreted it as I have described—e.g. a recent MIT PhD recipient. These people exist, and I suspect they exist in large numbers. You, it seems, do not believe this.

            If said “MIT PhD recipient” meant to say that Pinker´s book demonstrates that, everything else (= everything that Pinker does not talk about) being equal, things actually have gotten better – then he is right and you are wrong. If you asked him whether he genuinely believes that physical violence is the only morally relevant issue and he answered affirmatively, then he might be entitled for a refund on his tuition fees.

            So I suggest: keep the accusations flowing.

            Yup, you are the victim here, obviously.

          • 1. Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.

            Slanderously false. I said “last step to victory”. I didn’t say “step at which one declares victory”. You have chosen, consciously or not, to go with an interpretation which paints me with terrible character. You might consider how this colors your perception of people in general—I doubt I’m in any way special. Is this what happens when people criticize your heroes?

            2. A great thought experiment for Pinker because he presumably believes that the rates of all kinds of physical violence are all that could possibly matter morally and every action that reduces them is therefore morally justified.

            Nope; I just ignored every other moral issue, just like he did with his TED Talk on the decline of violence. It’s curious that you get offended when I simplify thusly, but Pinker does not. Double standards for the win?

            3. Pinker has written his book not to inform but rather to deceive because he wants to manipulate people and “take them along for a ride”, a ride to…. *insert ominous music here and show some KZ pictures*

            Again not what I said. Indeed, I said this:

            LB: You are quite right: my ‘ostensibly’ was, while an intended qualifier (I try to have all qualifiers be meaningful, apparently unlike you), not enough. That being said, right now I think I might be more concerned with the majority interpretation of Pinker, over and above what he thinks.

            I see you’ve conveniently ignored it—both in your response, as well as now. I suppose it’s an inconvenient fact for your character assassination attempt. Yep, as long as Pinker’s intentions are pure, who cares how his work is interpreted?

            I didn´t ask you what plausible deniability is, I wrote “I would ask “what ride is that supposed to be?”, “plausible deniability of *what*?” and “how the fuck do you know any of this?””

            I would be repeating myself to answer any of this, so I’ll only answer the last: (1) anecdotal experience; (2) my various models of the kinds of people who will be exposed to Pinker’s work; (3) the reports of Peter Berger of what intellectuals have managed to tell themselves. Take it or leave it; suffice it to say that I trust my models of people much more than yours. You’ve given me zero reason to trust yours. Perhaps I’ve given you zero reason to trust mine. Then, we’re at an impasse. I’m certainly not going to respect your incredulity if it is emotional instead of logical.

            If said “MIT PhD recipient” meant to say that Pinker´s book demonstrates that, everything else (= everything that Pinker does not talk about) being equal, things actually have gotten better – then he is right and you are wrong.

            It’s curious that you agree with this, and then get so offended when I offer two examples which really do simplify things down to amount of violence. Cognitive dissonance for the win?

            Yup, you are the victim here, obviously.

            I see, so only victims can say such things? That’s awfully convenient for you.

          • Slanderously false. I said “last step to victory”. I didn’t say “step at which one declares victory”. You have chosen, consciously or not, to go with an interpretation which paints me with terrible character.

            Yeah, right, because this:
            Oh right, just like “Ostensibly, he´d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the point where he declares victory.”
            would “paint you with terrible character”, while this, what you in fact did say:
            “Ostensibly, he´d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory.”
            – would not. No wait…. Actually, there is no difference between the two whatsoever and both paint you with terrible character for the exact same reason.

            You might consider how this colors your perception of people in general—I doubt I’m in any way special. Is this what happens when people criticize your heroes?

            Hint: if A makes up the most outrageously defamatory lies about B, and C criticizises A for that, that doesn´t actually mean that C considers A to be a hero.

            Nope; I just ignored every other moral issue, just like he did with his TED Talk on the decline of violence. It’s curious that you get offended when I simplify thusly, but Pinker does not. Double standards for the win?

            No, you are right. Because whenever someone talks about something being good (or bad), but does not simultaneously provide an exhaustive list of every other issue in the history (and likely future of) mankind that is also good (or bad), then that means that this something is literally the only thing that said someone considers to be morally relevant. So, when Luke Breuer says something like:
            “Sadly, I have to give this one to Pinker, due to how retarded most of us have gotten about the Bible. Orthodox Jew Yoram Hazony does some fantastic debunking of this stupidity in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. ”
            – but does not simultaneously talk about ALL other developments he considers to be bad, then we can conclude that there are no other developments that Luke Breuer considers to be bad. And since this is what you in fact did, we can conclude that you would presumably be fine with forcing people to take a biblical literacy test annually and kill the 10% that perform worst on this test – no double standards here!😉

            Again not what I said. Indeed, I said this:

            LB: You are quite right: my ‘ostensibly’ was, while an intended qualifier (I try to have all qualifiers be meaningful, apparently unlike you), not enough. That being said, right now I think I might be more concerned with the majority interpretation of Pinker, over and above what he thinks.

            I see you’ve conveniently ignored it

            “Again not what I said”?? No, actually, exactly what you did say because those were all literal and complete quotes from your comments. Regarding your notpology here, if you consider that to be acceptable, then I guess I can now start lying about all the things that you ostensibly want to happen and if I get called out on it, I just say:
            “You are quite right: my ‘ostensibly’ was, while an intended qualifier (I try to have all qualifiers be meaningful, apparently unlike you), not enough. That being said, right now I think I might be more concerned with the majority interpretation of Breuer, over and above what he thinks.”

            I would be repeating myself to answer any of this, so I’ll only answer the last: (1) anecdotal experience;(2) my various models of the kinds of people who will be exposed to Pinker’s work;

            Aka Luke Breuer´s ass (and note that if your one data point, said “MIT PhD recipient” said exactly what you claim he said, this doesn´t imply in any way, shape or form points 1-3 that you insinuated about Pinker´s character and intentions and which I reiterated in my previous comment ).

            (3) the reports of Peter Berger of what intellectuals have managed to tell themselves.

            Because an intellectual saying that other intellectuals were deluded about developments in the soviet union during cold war times gives you a blanket permission to make up any lie you want about any intellectual. Luke Breuer logic at work.

            It’s curious that you agree with this, and then get so offended when I offer two examples which really do simplify things down to amount of violence. Cognitive dissonance for the win?

            So, this is what said “MIT PhD recipient” did mean, that everything else (= everything Pinker did not talk about) being equal, things have gotten better. So your entire case is built on one data point for which you simply have to lie and pretend that “everything else being equal” actually does mean “everything else is morally irrelevant”.

            Lying scumbag.

          • Yeah, right, because this:
            Oh right, just like “Ostensibly, he´d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the point where he declares victory.”
            would “paint you with terrible character”, while this, what you in fact did say:
            “Ostensibly, he´d see The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the last step to victory.”
            – would not. No wait…. Actually, there is no difference between the two whatsoever and both paint you with terrible character for the exact same reason.

            There is no difference between:

            1. Seeing this terrible situation, albeit where only one person is experiencing physical violence/misery, as one step away from victory.

            and

            2. Seeing this terrible situation as victory itself.

            ? I doubt very many people would agree with you, Andy. Shall we ask them? Or is Marc’s audience generally antagonistic to your Most Rational Point of View™?

            Hint: if A makes up the most outrageously defamatory lies about B, and C criticizises A for that, that doesn´t actually mean that C considers A to be a hero.

            You are correct; the logical implication does not follow. That being said, in my experience there is enough correlation that the inference is nonetheless statistically valid. You could simply assert that Steven Pinker is, in no uncertain terms, not your hero. That would clear up this point quite nicely.

            Because whenever someone talks about something being good (or bad), but does not simultaneously provide an exhaustive list of every other issue in the history (and likely future of) mankind that is also good (or bad), then that means that this something is literally the only thing that said someone considers to be morally relevant.

            If you actually read the Wikipedia summary of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, you’ll see that it contains a strict correlation between physical violence/misery, and all other moral badness, except in the minds of those who decide to walk away. So by bringing up this story, I very much did not ignore all other issues. So if what I’ve done has earned the title “Lying scumbag.”, then you have earned something much worse.

            “Again not what I said”?? No, actually, exactly what you did say because those were all literal and complete quotes from your comments. Regarding your notpology here, if you consider that to be acceptable, then I guess I can now start lying about all the things that you ostensibly want to happen and if I get called out on it, I just say:
            “You are quite right: my ‘ostensibly’ was, while an intended qualifier (I try to have all qualifiers be meaningful, apparently unlike you), not enough. That being said, right now I think I might be more concerned with the majority interpretation of Breuer, over and above what he thinks.”

            You are absolutely welcome to do this. You will find, of course, that I likely drop out of the conversation if you do so—at least, unless others chime in and make it worth my time. I actually do need to be concerned with the statistical impact my words leave on other people; you, however, have given evidence of being unreliable in that domain, and no evidence I recall of being reliable. I recall one point where you were incredulous that someone might dismiss religious experience as hallucination; I don’t even recall you responding when I linked you to something like Hallucinatory Experience   Religion Formation.

            Because an intellectual saying that other intellectuals were deluded about developments in the soviet union during cold war times gives you a blanket permission to make up any lie you want about any intellectual.

            If this is how you wish to employ logic, I suggest we stop talking to each other. You clearly think this is how I apply logic, and instead of making a rational argument to the highest possible standards that this is what I’m doing, you assert it like this. You know, from many discussions with me (your Excellent Memory™, right?), that this is not a reliable way to move the conversation forward. In doing this, you are being 100% irrational, if truly your goal is truth-seeking, which you hinted at earlier:

            AS: You´ll note that my “bashing” is directly proportional to the degree of you fooling yourself – like you do here by saying “alleged incoherence”. The more you fool yourself, the more I´ll bash on it, that is not intellectually dishonest, that is caring about truth.

            Do you actually care about something else more than the truth? How about you be fully open and honest?

            (and note that if your one data point, said “MIT PhD recipient” said exactly what you claim he said, this doesn´t imply in any way, shape or form points 1-3 that you insinuated about Pinker´s character and intentions and which I reiterated in my previous comment )

            If you mean this comment, I agreed with none of those points, and so your parenthetical bit here is irrelevant. To argue that I am would be an example of this:

            Lying scumbag.

            If you wish, instead, to say that the majority of some population would interpret what I said thusly, then provide an argument anyone here would find convincing. But right now, you seem more interested in (i) twisting words; (ii) arguing that non-equal things are equal; (iii) emulating others’ arguments in a way perhaps only you find compelling and/or useful in truth-seeking.

          • There is no difference between:

            1. Seeing this terrible situation, albeit where only one person is experiencing physical violence/misery, as one step away from victory.

            and

            2. Seeing this terrible situation as victory itself.

            ? I doubt very many people would agree with you, Andy. Shall we ask them? Or is Marc’s audience generally antagonistic to your Most Rational Point of View™?

            Hmm… seems like you forgot something, namely:
            “Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed”, which led to my summary of what you insinuate about Pinker´s character and intentions here:
            “Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.”
            And it is spot on, you insinuate that Pinker has no problem with scapegoating sensu an Omelas society AND that the society he is aiming for (“aiming for” due to you saying “last step to victory”) is a society where nonformists SYSTEMATICALLY GET MURDERED. What you insinuate about Pinker´s character and intentions is pretty much the worst thing that you could possible insinuate about someone´s character and intentions and what you are doing right now is pure Frankfurtian bullshitting – along the line of “I didn´t say that he WAS a Nazi, I just said that he desires a society exactly like Nazi Germany was”. And yes, go ahead and ask who you want whether you in fact have been insinuating *precisely* this:
            “Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.”
            – about Steven Pinker´s character and intentions.

            You are correct; the logical implication does not follow. That being said, in my experience there is enough correlation that the inference is nonetheless statistically valid. You could simply assert that Steven Pinker is, in no uncertain terms, not your hero. That would clear up this point quite nicely.

            Steven Pinker is not my hero. Also, fuck your “experiences” / prejudices.

            If you actually read the Wikipedia summary of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, you’ll see that it contains a strict correlation between physical violence/misery, and all other moral badness

            I actually did read the wikipedia summary and it doesn´t even contain the word “violence” or implies in ANY way that “violence is correlated to all other moral badness” so that if violence were minimized, all moral badness would automatically be minimized as well. You lied again. And even if you would not have lied about this, it would still be completely irrelevant because you claiming that this is what Pinker wants would still be based on a different and earlier lie – that Pinker only considers rates of physical violence to be of relevance and if those go down, EVERYTHING gets better, a claim straight out of your ass with no support whatsoever.

            So if what I’ve done has earned the title “Lying scumbag.”, then you have earned something much worse.

            No, if would have lied to smear your character, that would have made me a lying scumbag exactly like you are one and not one iota worse – however, unlike you, I didn´t lie.

            You are absolutely welcome to do this. You will find, of course, that I likely drop out of the conversation if you do so—at least, unless others chime in and make it worth my time. I actually do need to be concerned with the statistical impact my words leave on other people

            Yup, you certainly do seem to be concerned about finding people credulous enough to swallow your lies and start hating the same people you hate.

            ; you, however, have given evidence of being unreliable in that domain, and no evidence I recall of being reliable. I recall one point where you were incredulous that someone might dismiss religious experience as hallucination; I don’t even recall you responding when I linked you to something like Hallucinatory Experience Religion Formation.

            Of course you don´t remember it – what a surprise.

            If this is how you wish to employ logic, I suggest we stop talking to each other. You clearly think this is how I apply logic

            This is how you in fact did apply logic, you cited one intellectual who wrote about how other intellectuals deluded themselves about developments in the soviet union during cold war times and pretend that this supports your defamatory lies about Pinker – all without even so much as trying to come up with even just the flimsiest logical connection between one and the other. And no amount of your usual hyperverbose bullshitting will change that – this is what you in fact did.

            If you mean this comment, I agreed with none of those points

            Yet all of those points are completely accurate and do not rely on any Lukean bullshit like “simulating people” or the alleged impact of your writings on people who read your comments as inferred from my recountings of conversations with those people – it is all based on your complete, verbatim quotes without ignoring any relevant context or making any assumptions about you whatsoever.

            Also, I´ll point out again that regarding your conversation with said “MIT PhD recipient” – your entire case is built on one data point and you even have to lie about that single data point and even with that lie, it still would only support one of your insinuations about Pinker´s character and intentions.

          • Hmm… seems like you forgot something, namely:
            “Nevermind that the last step may be impossible, and that the few nonconformists of society may routinely get “disappeared”, or somehow else killed”

            Ok, so let’s get something clear. Had I not said that last bit, would you then take much less issue with what I said? It wasn’t clear to me that you were especially zeroing in on this particular bit. Perhaps you made it clear and I missed it; if so, I apologize. However, it is generally helpful to communicate something very clear, such as: “If you hadn’t included just this one bit, I would have reacted quite differently.” So, shall we focus on that one particular bit?

            which led to my summary of what you insinuate about Pinker´s character and intentions here:
            “Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.”

            Yes, that 1. is something I explicitly repudiated. You see, there is another way to interpret my “Nevermind”: that Pinker is ignorant of that possibility. You don’t seem to want to allow for this possibility. And yet, such a possibility makes a huge difference: Pinker may still be culpable for such ignorance, but it would be a very different result than your 1. Very different.

            And it is spot on, you insinuate that Pinker has no problem with scapegoating sensu an Omelas society AND that the society he is aiming for (“aiming for” due to you saying “last step to victory”) is a society where nonformists SYSTEMATICALLY GET MURDERED.

            This false. Pinker is perfectly willing to talk about absolutely tragic situations, like Trolley Car Dilemmas. I am virtually certain that he wishes there were never a Trolley Car Dilemma which obtains in real life. That one might have to move through an especially painful point to get to a desired goal in no way establishes approval of that especially painful point. This is simply invalid logic. You would have to add premises I do not hold in order to establish your conclusion. This is why you use the word ‘insinuate’, instead of laying out a formal argument with clearly described premises, corollaries, and conclusions. Were you serious about the accusation of being a “lying scumbag”, you would establish your case clearly, without using weasel words. As it is, you are more interested in character assassination than the truth.

            What you insinuate about Pinker´s character and intentions

            No, the correct way to say this is: “What I would have insinuated if I had used those words…”

            Also, fuck your “experiences” / prejudices.

            And why ought yours not similarly be fucked? Suppose they are: then what are we left with? Please be precise.

            I actually did read the wikipedia summary and it doesn´t even contain the word “violence” or implies in ANY way that “violence is correlated to all other moral badness” so that if violence were minimized, all moral badness would automatically be minimized as well. You lied again.

            The reason I said “violence/misery” was that the specific thing described is physical misery, which seems to be precisely the consequence that is bad, in the term “physical violence”. A major premise explored by the short story is that there is nothing like a ‘soul’ which is tainted by (a) knowing about such misery; (b) cooperating in maintaining such misery. Please stop conveniently ignoring bits of what I’ve said, in order to assassinate my character.

            however, unlike you, I didn´t lie.

            Bullshit; I showed that you have here, as you have, before (see (1) and (3), and the misrepresentation going on with (2) and (4)).

            Yup, you certainly do seem to be concerned about finding people credulous enough to swallow your lies and start hating the same people you hate.

            Whom, precisely, do I hate, and where is the evidence of said hatred? I’ve already said that I think Pinker is a genius in some areas and retarded in others. So, on pain of this being more evidence of an attempt at character assassination, give a complete and full list of people I ostensibly hate, replete with evidence which shows me attempting to get others to hate them along with me. Evidence, admit that you never had any intention of supporting this statement, or deal with your term, “Lying scumbag”.

            This is how you in fact did apply logic, you cited one intellectual who wrote about how other intellectuals deluded themselves about developments in the soviet union during cold war times and pretend that this supports your defamatory lies about Pinker – all without even so much as trying to come up with even just the flimsiest logical connection between one and the other.

            You could have asked for a more specific argument, like I have done to you multiple times, now. I would have provided one. Instead, you chose to merely interpret what I said in a way that allows you to character assassinate. This is very telling.

            Yet all of those points are completely accurate and do not rely on any Lukean bullshit like “simulating people”

            The idea of “simulating people” is psychologically valid, at least if you think that Michael P. Nichols’ The Lost Art of Listening isn’t full of shit. This is how you get into other people’s minds: you start being able to simulate them so well that you can predict how they will respond to various stimuli. “If I were to say X, how would this demographic interpret my words?” There’s nothing bullshit about that question; it is indeed a very important question. Now, suppose you think my “simulating people” doesn’t fit into the template I’ve provided, here. Well, make a logical, supported, cited argument. You’re getting way too much mileage out of the word ‘insinuate’. That you, Andy Schueler, think I insinuated X doesn’t mean that anyone else on the planet agrees with you. And yet, you state these things as if plenty of others do in fact agree with you. Do you think you are simulating them well?

            Also, I´ll point out again that regarding your conversation with said “MIT PhD recipient” – your entire case is built on one data point and you even have to lie about that single data point and even with that lie, it still would only support one of your insinuations about Pinker´s character and intentions.

            Here you’ve gone back to claiming I have insinuated things that I did not intend to imply, and so I end my comment.

          • Ok, so let’s get something clear. Had I not said that last bit, would you then take much less issue with what I said? It wasn’t clear to me that you were especially zeroing in on this particular bit. Perhaps you made it clear and I missed it; if so, I apologize. However, it is generally helpful to communicate something very clear, such as: “If you hadn’t included just this one bit, I would have reacted quite differently.” So, shall we focus on that one particular bit?

            No, this is what you said, now own it. If you want to retract and apologize for some parts of that, do so – otherwise, this is all just hot air.

            Yes, that 1. is something I explicitly repudiated. You see, there is another way to interpret my “Nevermind”: that Pinker is ignorant of that possibility. You don’t seem to want to allow for this possibility. And yet, such a possibility makes a huge difference: Pinker may still be culpable for such ignorance, but it would be a very different result than your 1. Very different.

            Interpreting it like that makes no sense given the context because you say that:
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – which means that Pinker is intentionally telling half-truths and wants to have plausible deniability for unspecified nefarious reasons (And I know that they are “nefarious” despite you never saying what they are because if they were not, he would not need plausible deniability). So, your interpretation here is invalid given the context, this was NOT what you meant. Own your words – if you think they are indefensible, then retract them and apologize, simply shifting the goalposts (as you already tried to do by trying to shift it to the alleged impact on Pinker´s writing on his readers (of course without retracting anything you said about Pinker himself)) or ignoring the context is not acceptable.

            This false. Pinker is perfectly willing to talk about absolutely tragic situations, like Trolley Car Dilemmas. I am virtually certain that he wishes there were never a Trolley Car Dilemma which obtains in real life. That one might have to move through an especially painful point to get to a desired goal in no way establishes approval of that especially painful point. This is simply invalid logic. You would have to add premises I do not hold in order to establish your conclusion.

            All irrelevant because you are shifting the goalposts here. You are trying to defend yourself against the charge that you insinuated that Pinker wants to murder nonconformists for the sake of murdering them / because he wants to see them killed. But that is not what I accused you of at all, I accused you of this:
            “Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.”
            – and note that “desire” here clearly refers to “society” and not the “murder” part, meaning that Pinker would not desire murder per se / murder for the sake or murder, but rather that murdering nonconformists is a necessary part of Pinker´s desired society (the society that he would consider to be a “victory” or “last step to victory”) and would therefore be considered to be “worth it” by Pinker. And this is what you in fact did insinuate, and the defense that Pinker might be ignorant of that consequence is immaterial because it is invalidated by the contex, see above.

            No, the correct way to say this is: “What I would have insinuated if I had used those words…”

            Wrong. I use your quotes verbatim, factoring in all relevant context, and do not add or omit and relevant words.

            And why ought yours not similarly be fucked?

            They ought to and if I start making shit up about you based on my prejudices of what theists are like, then this “I know what you are but what am I?” defense would not be as laughable as it is now.

            The reason I said “violence/misery” was that the specific thing described is physical misery, which seems to be precisely the consequence that is bad, in the term “physical violence”.

            Bullshit, quotes from the wiki summary:
            “…a shimmering city of unbelievable happiness and delight
            Everything about Omelas is so abundantly pleasing…”
            “The city’s constant state of serenity and splendor…”
            The article neither says, nor implies, that it is the absence of “physical violence” that makes the Omelas society special (or “good”, by a very weird standard of “goodness”), this is completely your fabrication. What it does talk about is a general, all-encompassing and permanent sense of bliss – everyone and everything is “happy”, “delightful”, “pleasing”, “serene” etc.pp., close to how a child would imagine heaven to be like – and this bliss is being bought by scapegoating one innocent child who is being damned to suffer in unimaginable misery (like a child would imagine hell to be, I can´t help but point out).

            A major premise explored by the short story is that there is nothing like a ‘soul’ which is tainted by (a) knowing about such misery; (b) cooperating in maintaining such misery.

            100% a Lukean fabrication. This has nothing to do with a soul or lack thereof, the premises are a) that it is possible to buy the bliss of Omelas by scapegoating one child and damning it suffer so that no one else has to suffer and b) that the majority (possibly even the vast majority) of people living in that hypothetical society lack a sense of fairness, justice and most importantly empathy, so that they can become aware of the suffering of the scapegoat, but still experience the all-encompassing bliss of Omelas, without that bliss being destroyed by feeling empathy for the scapegoat or getting angry at the unjust way of how this bliss was bought. Your major premise is not one of the story, but rather one of your own prejudices – that there is no such thing as a sense of fairness, justice and empathy without some “soul”.

            Please stop conveniently ignoring bits of what I’ve said, in order to assassinate my character.

            I didn´t ignore anything, what you say about the wiki summary is 100% your fabrication. And your constant “I know what you are but what am I?!” schtick is pathetic for an adult.

            Bullshit; I showed that you have here

            Swing and a miss.

            Whom, precisely, do I hate, and where is the evidence of said hatred?

            Pinker and the evidence is your gratuitous nastiness regarding Pinker in this earlier thread and your outrageous attempts at character assassination here.

            You could have asked for a more specific argument

            That entails that you had a less specific argument. But you had not. You didn´t have any argument what-so-ever. You just namedropped a guy who talked about how intellectuals deceived themselves wrt the soviet union during cold war times and pretended that this supports your case – without even trying to come up with anything that even remotely resembles an argument, no matter how unspecific.

            The idea of “simulating people” is psychologically valid, at least if you think that Michael P. Nichols’ The Lost Art of Listening isn’t full of shit. This is how you get into other people’s minds: you start being able to simulate them so well that you can predict how they will respond to various stimuli. “If I were to say X, how would this demographic interpret my words?” There’s nothing bullshit about that question; it is indeed a very important question. Now, suppose you think my “simulating people” doesn’t fit into the template I’ve provided, here. Well, make a logical, supported, cited argument.

            The disconnect between how much intellectual justification you expect from others and how much you yourself provide for any random thought out of your confused mind gets more and more extreme with every comment – you already are at the level where you expect practically an entire dissertation from your interlocutor for every claim he makes while you yourself make claims, including quite extreme claims and claims that would entail that a public scholar is thoroughly corrupt, intellectually and morally, which are supported by nothing, nothing what-so-ever. It is getting comically absurd.

          • No, this is what you said, now own it.

            If you refuse to indicate how much of your objection centers around a small bit of the entire discussion, I claim that is intellectual dishonesty.

            Interpreting it like that makes no sense given the context because you say that:
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – which means that Pinker is intentionally telling half-truths and wants to have plausible deniability for unspecified nefarious reasons

            No, it does not so imply. For example, F.A. Hayek in Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason and Jacques Ellul in The Technological Society both talk about intentionality which models non-human forces. One way to say this is that Daniel Dennett’s intentional stance can be used to model phenomena not intended by human beings. This is precisely an option I left open to Steven Pinker: to not be sufficiently cognizant of statistically significant ways his work would be interpreted.

            Own your words – if you think they are indefensible, then retract them and apologize, simply shifting the goalposts (as you already tried to do by trying to shift it to the alleged impact on Pinker´s writing on his readers (of course without retracting anything you said about Pinker himself)) or ignoring the context is not acceptable.

            That “shifting the goalposts” was a clarification of my actual thought process: in some situations, I care much more about the effects of words than the intention behind them. This is one such case. Do you really think this is never a valid method of interpretation, is it the case you don’t think it was valid here, or something else?

            I accused you of this:
            “Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.”
            – and note that “desire” here clearly refers to “society” and not the “murder” part, meaning that Pinker would not desire murder per se / murder for the sake or murder, but rather that murdering nonconformists is a necessary part of Pinker´s desired society (the society that he would consider to be a “victory” or “last step to victory”) and would therefore be considered to be “worth it” by Pinker. And this is what you in fact did insinuate, and the defense that Pinker might be ignorant of that consequence is immaterial because it is invalidated by the contex, see above.

            Oh that’s bullshit, that the emphasis was on “society” and not “murder”. Or rather: if you get to clarify the intent behind your words, so do I. So, pick one:

                 (1) Authors get to clarify meaning.
                 (2) Readers get to decide meaning.

            Which one, Andy? You don’t get to pick (1) for your own words and (2) for mine.

            Wrong. I use your quotes verbatim, factoring in all relevant context, and do not add or omit and relevant words.

            I don’t give a shit whether you quoted my words verbatim. Generally, there is more than one way to interpret what a person says. You, who have one of many general types of psyche, don’t get to dictate how every single person would interpret a given phrasing. And yet, that is precisely what you are doing, here. Furthermore, you give the strong impression that when it is you who are speaking, (1) applies, whereas when it is I who is speaking, (2) applies.

            They ought to

            Ok, then please answer the rest, which you 100% ignored:

            LB: Suppose they are: then what are we left with? Please be precise.

            The article neither says, nor implies, that it is the absence of “physical violence” that makes the Omelas society special (or “good”, by a very weird standard of “goodness”), this is completely your fabrication.

            There is a difference between the absence of physical violence being a necessary aspect of goodness and the absence of physical violence being a sufficient aspect of goodness. Please don’t conflate necessary & sufficient. It is very clear that the fact that there is one person in physical misery (a necessary consequence of physical violence, which makes the physical violence bad—otherwise BDSM would be evil) is a stain on the goodness of Omelas, at least as judged by those who walk away. Given that I indicated that Omelas would not be the victory point for Pinker but merely a possible penultimate stage, I am putting him in the category of those who would walk away, or those who would push for that last bit of physical misery to be expunged.

            And your constant “I know what you are but what am I?!”

            I have no idea what you’re talking about. If what you are doing is character assassination, I’m going to call it for what it is.

            Pinker and the evidence is your gratuitous nastiness regarding Pinker in this earlier thread and your outrageous attempts at character assassination here.

            You have chosen to interpret those as character assassination. In the beginning of that comment, I stated:

            LB: Just FYI, I see Pinker as part-genius, part-deluded-idiot.

            First, I offer him praise. Second, I claim he is deluded—not evil, not a lying scumbag, none of that. You have never, not once, said anything significantly positive about me. No, instead you offer allegedly hyperbolic statements such as “you are flat out wrong all the time.” Check your exaggeration; I think it is critically clouding your judgment.

            That entails that you had a less specific argument. But you had not.

            There you go, assuming you understand me perfectly. Would you stop that?

            you already are at the level where you expect practically an entire dissertation from your interlocutor for every claim he makes

            Nothing I said can possibly lead to this insane exaggeration. What I do expect is that the bar for imputing evil intentions to another person is fantastically high. I think this is a morally excellent standard; do you really, truly disagree? I have had many people like you impute evil intentions to me; you are far from the first. Without fail, people have been unable to substantiate their imputations; generally, they don’t even respond when I ask for a rigorous argument which does not sneak in premises or presuppositions which I do not hold.

            you yourself make claims, including quite extreme claims and claims that would entail that a public scholar is thoroughly corrupt, intellectually and morally

            Nothing I said was intended to make Pinker out to be morally corrupt. That is motivated reasoning on my part, with the intention to show me to be a lying scumbag. This is a repeated pattern on your part; it seems like whenever you can possibly make me out to be a lying scumbag, you jump at the opportunity. My response? Your words:

            It is getting comically absurd.

          • If you refuse to indicate how much of your objection centers around a small bit of the entire discussion, I claim that is intellectual dishonesty.

            I refuse to let you pretend that the context doesn´t exist or pretend that you haven´t said all of what you in fact did say. Own it, all of it.

            No, it does not so imply. For example, F.A. Hayek in Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason and Jacques Ellul in The Technological Society both talk about intentionality which models non-human forces. One way to say this is that Daniel Dennett’s intentional stance can be used to model phenomena not intended by human beings. This is precisely an option I left open to Steven Pinker: to not be sufficiently cognizant of statistically significant ways his work would be interpreted.

            No you did not leave open that option because:
            “So, [truthfully] say that *this* kind of threat is getting less threatening, and you can take people along for a ride with perfect plausible deniability.”
            – Pinker wants to take people “along for a ride”, tells half-truths to do that, and wants to have plausible deniability because he is too cowardly to just honestly say what it is that he wants to happen. This is what you said, and it is incompatible with Pinker being unaware of any nefarious consequences this would lead to. But this is not the only reason for why this defense fails – even if you allowed for Pinker to be ignorant of those alleged consequences (which you didn´t initially), that still presupposes that those consequences are probable which is something that you cannot support (and no, your “MIT PhD recipient” doesn´t support it because “everything else being equal” doesn´t mean “everything else is irrelevant” – you haven´t mentioned ANYTHING that this guy said which would allow the interpretation that he a) considers to be physical violence to be only morally relevant issue and / or b) would deem ANY action to be justified if it decreases the overall rates of all kinds of physical violence).

            That “shifting the goalposts” was a clarification of my actual thought process: in some situations, I care much more about the effects of words than the intention behind them. This is one such case. Do you really think this is never a valid method of interpretation, is it the case you don’t think it was valid here, or something else?

            If I say that you strive for a christian theocracy where nonbelievers get killed, provide no support for that and then get called out for this, do not apologize for my claim, but rather just try to shift the goal posts to “Luke might not want that, but a non-negligible fraction of his readers might get that idea” then this would be dishonest – I would have insinuated terrible things about your character that I cannot support, and if I realize that I cannot support them, the only decent option is to retract them and apologize.

            Oh that’s bullshit, that the emphasis was on “society” and not “murder”. Or rather: if you get to clarify the intent behind your words, so do I.

            Grammar, how the fuck does it work? This was not a “clarification”, this is how the english language works. How about we ask an english teacher if this:
            “Ostensibly, Pinker sees no problem with scapegoating and desires a society that systematically murders nonconformists.”
            – could possibly be interpreted to mean a) that Pinker desires the murder of nonconformists per se instead of desiring b) that Pinker desires a society where non-conformists are murdered.
            You might as well say that you didn´t actually talk about Pinker at all but rather tried to write down your favourite chicken soup recipe.
            Seriously, shall we ask that question in some forum frequented by students of english studies and / or english teachers? I´d be happy to.

            LB: Suppose they are: then what are we left with? Please be precise.

            Everything, because I have never accused you of something that is based purely on my idiosyncratic experiences of what theists are like.

            There is a difference between the absence of physical violence being a necessary aspect of goodness and the absence of physical violence being a sufficient aspect of goodness. Please don’t conflate necessary & sufficient. It is very clear that the fact that there is one person in physical misery

            The word “physical” doesn´t even occur in the text! And nothing implies that the suffering of the child is limited to physical suffering, it implies the opposite actually. It says “a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness, and misery”, the child is always alone, in constant darkness and misery – “misery” is not synonymous to physical harm, it can mean physical harm, emotion harm, or both. Feel free to explain how this misery could NOT refer to both – some people go nuts after a few days in solitary confinement (which does not involve any kind of torture beyond the constant solitude) and after some weeks, they all break – how the fuck do you expect a child who lives in even worse conditions than that, permanently(!) to only suffer physical harm?

            (a necessary consequence of physical violence, which makes the physical violence bad—otherwise BDSM would be evil) is a stain on the goodness of Omelas, at least as judged by those who walk away. Given that I indicated that Omelas would not be the victory point for Pinker but merely a possible penultimate stage, I am putting him in the category of those who would walk away, or those who would push for that last bit of physical misery to be expunged.

            Quote “Once citizens are old enough to know the truth, MOST, though initially shocked and disgusted, are ultimately able to come to terms with the fact” – so you seriously try to argue that Pinker would consider it to be a “victory” wrt his plans of how society should develop if MOST(!) people do NOT(!) do what he wants to happen? You´ve got to be fucking kidding – this is the most transparently self-refuting interpretation of a story I have ever seen.

            First, I offer him praise. Second, I claim he is deluded—not evil, not a lying scumbag, none of that.

            Yup, he is a deluded idiot who desires a society where nonconformists systematically get killed and wants to manipulate people by telling them half-truths so that he can take them along for a ride to that society while having plausible deniability that this is what he wants to do – doesn´t sound evil or dishonest at all.

            You have never, not once, said anything significantly positive about me.

            Oh, in fact I did so several times in our early discussions.

            There you go, assuming you understand me perfectly. Would you stop that?

            Alright, then please show this alleged “unspecific argument” that I apparently do not perfectly understand (worse than that, I can´t even see it (did you use some tag which caused it to be printed with a white font?))

            Nothing I said can possibly lead to this insane exaggeration.

            Of course not! Quote:
            “This is why you use the word ‘insinuate’, instead of laying out a formal argument with clearly described premises, corollaries, and conclusions
            or:
            “give a complete and full list of people I ostensibly hate, replete with evidence”
            – Where are your formal arguments based on exhaustively studying what Pinker wrote?

            What I do expect is that the bar for imputing evil intentions to another person is fantastically high.

            Cool, then let me try your defense here, I never once imputed evil motives to you in this thread – you are just misinterpreting what I wrote.

            I think this is a morally excellent standard; do you really, truly disagree? I have had many people like you impute evil intentions to me

            I didn´t you are just misinterpreting, when I said that you are lying for example, I clearly left open the possibility that you just don´t know what you are talking about because I also mentioned that you are “confused”, so there – no evil motives have been imputed to you.

            Without fail, people have been unable to substantiate their imputations

            That is not surprising given that in your universe, english sentences are apparently infinitely malleable and can mean whatever you want them to mean.

    • A thought: Is abortion being counted in these violence statistics?[1] Because if not, I’d imagine the numbers would change quite a bit. [2]

      1. Nope.
      2. No numbers would change, because Pinker doesn´t calculate averages of completely different kinds of violence (and doing that would be comparing apples to oranges and statistically meaningless). Also, abortion certainly has not become less frequent in recent decades, but I doubt that it has become significantly more frequent – it is impossible to know for sure how many illegal abortions happened in the US before Roe v Wade, but estimates range from 200,000 to 1.2 million abortions per year, the number of *legal* abortions today is about 750,000 annually.

      • Okay, the first thing I looked up from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute put the annual number of abortions in the U.S.A. over a million a year.

        Also, if there wasn’t significantly more abortions after Roe v. Wade I’ll eat my hat.

        • In fact, every source I’ve looked at so far has recorded that abortions increased by a ludicrous amount post-Roe v. Wade. What on Earth are you looking at?

          And come to think of it, I’ve made the mistake of chasing a red herring: I didn’t mention Roe v. Wade initially.

          • In fact, every source I’ve looked at so far has recorded that abortions increased by a ludicrous amount post-Roe v. Wade.

            Yup. The number of *legal* abortions skyrocketed while the number of *illegal* abortions obviously plummeted – whether the total numbers (illegal + legal) increased, decreased or stayed about the same is hard to say because you can´t say for sure just how many illegal abortions happened. But what you can say for sure is that abortion was most emphatically not a rare phenomenon before it became legal.

          • It is one Hell of a stretch to try and argue that illegal abortions were somehow as or more (!!!) common BEFORE Roe v. Wade. Making the claim that, pre Roe v. Wade, we had barely less abortions than we did post is one you’ll have to support with more than “Well it’s possible”.

            It may not have been uncommon, but one thing that is undisputed is that it was less common, and from everything I’ve looked at it was, in fact, probably quite a good deal less common.

          • Making the claim that, pre Roe v. Wade, we had barely less abortions than we did post is one you’ll have to support with more than “Well it’s possible”.

            If I would make that claim, then yes, I would have to support it. But I´m not claiming that, I didn´t say that this is the case and I didn´t even say that it is the most likely alternative. What I say is that it could be the case because:
            “Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. One analysis, extrapolating from data from North Carolina, concluded that an estimated 829,000 illegal or self-induced abortions occurred in 1967.”
            https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/06/1/gr060108.html
            – and if the true number is close to the 1.2 million estimate, then yes, it would be well possible that abortion has actually become less common.

            It may not have been uncommon, but one thing that is undisputed is that it was less common, and from everything I’ve looked at it was, in fact, probably quite a good deal less common.

            Alright, so where is the evidence for this probably being the case?

          • Because there is a total of *one* estimate saying it may have decreased, as opposed to the many, many others showing a pretty significant increase.

            …But once again, why am I even allowing myself to be pulled into this? It’s besides the original point anyway.

          • Because there is a total of *one* estimate saying it may have decreased, as opposed to the many, many others showing a pretty significant increase.

            Where are those “many, many others showing a pretty significant increase”?

            …But once again, why am I even allowing myself to be pulled into this? It’s besides the original point anyway.

            What was the original point then?

          • I never mentioned Roe v. Wade. Merely pointed out his argument about a decrease in violence didn’t take abortion into account, which he did not consider violence. But I do.

          • Also, just btw – this is one of those issues where the raw numbers can be misleading, if you look at estimates for how many abortions happened in fifties and contrast them to today, you have to remember that the US population size has doubled since then.

  3. Here’s, for my money, what I see here: Miller, and by extension Pinker, is asserting that the decrease in violence means we are evolving towards a progressive golden age. But besides the fact that I don’t think his measures of “violence” are up to par, that’s even besides the point, because I don’t think that a decrease in violence necessarily leads to the conclusion they think it does. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is all about a society with almost no violence except for the cruelty done to one small child, and yet we consider it a dystopia; most of us would not think of our modern governments, which kill far more people, the same way.

    Or maybe it’s simply that we’ve decided that the sub-humans are too weak to defend themselves, like the unborn or the mentally ill. Given that, it’s natural the rate of violence would decrease. No fighting back!

    That may not be true, but I question his theory in any case.

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