Darrell Hougen

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Everything posted by Darrell Hougen

  1. Michael, That's why the governmental and societal system of the United States is sometimes called the "American experiment." No one knows whether it will last or how long it will last. It has lasted longer than most governments in the modern era, but most of the long history of humanity has seen autocratic rulers. Arguably, that is the natural condition of man: A king, a dictator, a tyrant, a despot. Of course, the founders knew this, which is why they attempted to create a system of checks and balances that would prevent any one person from becoming too powerful. Unfortunately, that system has been eroded to some degree over the years due to attacks from various quarters: German idealism and progressivism, the Sicilian mafia and organized crime, Marxism and neo-Marxist political correctness, and external threats like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union which have placed stress upon our society and governmental systems. That's why I am just as interested in the form of government as in the theory of individual rights. Are there ways that we can strengthen the system? Can we convince people to try them? That brings up another point. We can't just cynically say that such systems must be "natural." People have the capacity to reason and can be convinced by arguments using facts and logic. People can also be led astray, of course. But, that is why the pendulum sometimes swings wildly from one extreme to another. Other animals don't experience the cataclysms to which the human race is subjected. Herds of elk are always the same, generation after generation. They collect together, migrate together, eat the same food, fight for dominance in the same stylized way, are eaten or starve in the same way year after year. Humans swing from glorious success to abject failure to glorious success. Great civilizations are created and fall and every story is unique. There is no way to guarantee success, but an appeal to reason, whether through logical argument or story telling must take place if our civilization is to be preserved and thrive. Part of human nature is the ability to reason and that factor makes the human experience unique and perhaps unnatural. Darrell P.S. If I don't see your response before Monday, have a great weekend!
  2. Michael, I'm not trying to side step the question. That's why I spent a few sentences describing what zygote-blastocyst-embryo-fetus is before launching into a discussion of what I think the rights of the woman and zygote-blastocyst-embryo-fetus are. Darrell
  3. Michael, The state does not exist within a person's body, but a person exists within the dominion of the state. You could say that a person should have sovereignty over the inside of his or her body. Then it would be seen that the question of sovereignty over ones innards is a question of individual rights. It doesn't precede questions of individual rights. Personally, I don't see it as a slippery slope. The only time the state would have an interest in the inside of a person is if there were someone else living inside that person. With regard to the humanness of the fetus, I've heard all kinds of arguments. "It's not human." "It's a parasite." "It's an invader." etc. I've also heard ridiculous arguments on the other side. In response to the idea that a woman has property rights over her body and can withdraw the right for another person to inhabit her body at any time --- an argument with which I disagree --- I've heard the following: "That would be like a person allowing another person to fly on his airplane, withdrawing that right in flight, and pushing the other person out without a parachute." No, it wouldn't be. A fetus is not an individual adult human being. That's why I have problems with both extreme positions. A late term fetus is not just a little clump of cells and an early term embryo is not the same as an adult human being. A fetus is what it is and our policies should reflect that fact, in my opinion. Your position is not unreasonable. I just don't happen to agree with it. Darrell
  4. Michael, I agree completely that the "thing" is human. I just have a hard time with nomenclature because there are so many names for the unborn including zygote, blastocyst, embryo and fetus. The question is not whether the thing is human. The question is whether it is sufficiently well developed to merit some form of protection by the state. Darrell
  5. Michael, You raise an interesting question and it is one with which I have struggled. I've come up with a few different tests for determining whether a government is legitimate, though none is totally satisfactory. The first test is to ask whether a rational person would be willing to live in a particular country given it's governmental system or not. Of course, that can be interpreted in a couple of different ways. One way would be to demand that country be an ideal Objectivist utopia. Unfortunately, I see a lot of Objectivists who seem to think that way. Among other things, I don't think an Objectivist utopia is possible. Another way of interpreting the test is to look at it from the standpoint of the existing alternatives. In other words, one must choose from the existing possibilities. In such a scenario, a rational person might be willing to live in a country in which there are significant rights violations if that country were better than all of the other choices available. The problem with the second interpretation is that it turns the question into an optimization problem. If one country is slightly better than the rest, then logically, everyone would move to that country. That seems unreasonable. By the same token, if all of the countries in the world were horrible despotic regimes, the rational person would just choose the least bad option, move there, and consider it an acceptable choice since it would be the best choice. There would never be a call for revolution even if all countries were despotic regimes. I've also looked at the question from the standpoint of what a good government would look like. If a bunch of people moved to a previously unoccupied area and created a new country, what basic framework would they agree to? That is a complex question, but it is clear with a little consideration that such a country would have to have a government that was sufficiently flexible to handle a great many unforeseen problems. As such, it would probably have to be some form of republic or representative democracy with various branches and other devices designed to prevent it from turning into a despotic regime. In other words, it would have to be similar to the government of the United States or some European country. Given such considerations, so long as the government continued to function mostly as designed by allowing people to vote on their representatives and so long as there were strong protections for property, liberty, and other rights, it would seem to be a reasonable choice even if there were some significant rights violations. As I stated in my other post, it isn't just a question of what is. It is a question of what should be. So, it becomes a question of whether a reasonably constructed government of a mostly free country should liberate another country from its government or not. It is hard to produce cut and dried answers to such difficult questions, but it is often obvious when a country is despotic or when it does a reasonable job of protecting individual rights, even if the latter category doesn't measure up to utopian standards. Darrell
  6. Michael, I'm not sure what to make of your argument. Might makes right? So? Were not talking about the way things are. We're talking about the way things should be. We're talking about morality, about ethics, about rights. Your original argument is that a woman should have sovereignty over her own body. Obviously, whether she does or not is a matter to be decided by other members of society. If she lives in a kingdom, then the king has sovereignty. Don't believe it? Try crossing him. In a democratic republic, the voters and their elected representatives have sovereignty. If they decide a woman should be punished for her actions, then she doesn't have much choice in the matter. She is not sovereign. They are. The same argument applies to the country of Somalia. If the U.S. or some European power decided to take over Somalia, there isn't much that the Somalian government, army, or people could do about it. They just don't have the force of arms to prevent a first world country from conquering their country. So, the U.S. could make itself sovereign over Somalia and their isn't much Somalia could do about it. The question is not about whether Somalia's government is sovereign, but whether the U.S. should invade or not. If the government of Somalia were protecting the individual rights of the Somalian citizens, then the U.S., as a rights-respecting country should not conquer Somalia. If the government of Somalia were not protecting individual rights, then the U.S. must decide whether it would be in our interests to invade. If not, then we still should not invade, but for different reasons. Believe me, I am very sensitive to the issue of "deriving reality from principles." If you think I'm doing that, then you're perfectly justified in calling me out, but I don't think that's what I'm doing here. In the case of abortion, both the question of sovereignty and the question of the rights of the fetus are within realm of what can be adjudicated by a court of law. Women might have late term abortions in defiance of the law, but the police are perfectly capable of ticketing or arresting them and their doctors if their actions violate the law. It might be impossible to prevent such abortions, but it is also impossible, as a practical matter, to prevent most crimes. Most murders, rapes, and robberies are punished after the fact. Sometimes, they are prevented, but justice is usually retributory. A woman only has sovereignty over her body if that is allowed as a principle of law. Darrell
  7. Hi Michael, In my opinion, your example concerning Somalia shows the problem with your formulation. You're putting the cart before the horse by putting sovereignty before individual rights. Here is a relevant quote of Ayn Rand: In other words, there is no reason to respect the so-called "sovereignty" of a state or country that doesn't protect individual rights. Such a country has no legitimacy. The question of abortion is complex because the thing growing inside a woman undergoes a number of developmental changes, from zygote to blastocyst to a collection of distinct items including the placenta, amniotic sac, and embryo. The embryo further develops into the fetus and the fetus undergoes a number of changes including development of the ability to feel pain. The process of development takes place over an extended period of time. During that time, the thing that is developing goes from being mostly a part of the mother to mostly distinct with complete separation happening at birth. Also, during that time, the pregnant woman has the opportunity to choose whether to continue the pregnancy or not. So, the first question is, does the mother have any obligation toward the developing fetus? In my view the answer is yes; she has an obligation to not be cruel. If she wishes to have a elective abortion --- if she simply doesn't want the responsibility of caring for her offspring for the next 20 years, then she should have an abortion early, before the fetus develops the ability to feel pain. The other question is, does anyone other than the mother have a legitimate interest in her decision about whether to have an abortion or not? In my view, the answer to that question is also yes. In my view, people have a legitimate interest in justice and that interest extends to the period beyond which the developing fetus can feel pain. It may also extend to the period before that if the pregnant woman is behaving in such a way as to increase the probability of birth defects. It boils down to a question of whether we are dealing with the rights of one person (counting just the pregnant woman) or two people (including the fetus). If only the pregnant woman is counted, then her individual rights should be respected. If there are two people, then the interests of both must be considered. I don't have a problem with early term abortions because I don't think the fetus is sufficiently well developed for abortion to be a bad thing. However, I do believe that late term abortions are cruel and that society has a legitimate interest in preventing cruelty to innocent human life. Again, it's a complex issue, so reasonable people can disagree. Darrell
  8. I wonder at what point scientists decided that the 30 year window was appropriate. 30 is often considered the minimum size of a statistical sample, so there might be a legitimate reason for using that number, but it seems very convenient in the current debate. If I recall correctly, climate alarmism really got going around the year 2000. By comparing the current temperature to the 30 year average, it allowed weather forecasters to average in the particularly cold 1970's while ignoring earlier decades that were actually warmer. It also brings up the question of what is "normal." Weather people often say that the temperature is "above normal." If they mean it is above the 30 year average, that is fine, but why don't they say that? If the weather person said, "Today, the temperature is expected to be above the 30 year average," it wouldn't be quite the same as saying that the temperature is expected to be, "above normal." Today's temperature is expected to be above the 30 year average and above the 100 year average, but below the 10,000 year average. We are expecting a period of light followed by increasing darkness into this evening. People who are expecting to be out and about at that time are encouraged to use their headlights. Additional periods of light and darkness are expected over the next few days. Darrell
  9. Why should I read beyond that line? That sounds like the raving of a crazy man. It sounds like conspiracy theory to the hilt. Darrell
  10. Also, J. P. Morgan died in 1913. So, whatever sins his family committed after his death should not be blamed on him. John D. Rockefeller died in 1937, 4 years after Hitler rose to power, so there might be some overlap there. Cornelius Vanderbilt died in 1877. Andrew Carnegie died in 1919. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 under President Woodrow Wilson. Darrell
  11. Hi Jon,I have trouble believing everything you posted, starting with their connection to the Nazis. It may be difficult to know for certain, but it didn't take long to find an author who contradicts what you quoted above: Darrell
  12. I think people who want socialism generally have no historical perspective. The Plymouth Colony was a (failed and abandoned) experiment in socialism. The Jamestown colony was another (failed and abandoned) experiment in socialism. The entire state of Georgia was a (failed and abandoned) experiment in socialism. Numerous other communities in the United States and Europe have tried socialism since times predating the Soviet Union by hundreds of years. It's been tried throughout the world in numerous countries and it has always failed. And yet ... And yet ... next time we'll get it right. How many hundreds of years do we have to wait for people to completely abandon the idea of socialism? Darrell
  13. What do you have against Rockefeller and Morgan? I have to admit I'm a bit biased, having read a book called "Captains of Industry" when I was a kid that heaped praise on all the 19th century giants. But, I have always been a big fan of those early American capitalists: Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford, etc. They probably formed the archetype for some of Ayn Rand's characters like Frank Rearden, Ellis Wyatt and Francisco D'Anconia. Darrell
  14. I can't say I'm a big fan of cryptocurrencies. My problem is that they're not anonymous. If they were completely anonymous, I'd be much more likely to get on board. They can also be lost or hacked. Still, it's good to have alternatives. Darrell
  15. As a friend put it, "They were eating the seed corn." Consuming the resources that should have been invested makes a person feel rich until next year ... when there is no harvest. Darrell
  16. Reason magazine had a good article on the events that I saw over the weekend. Apparently, the boys suffered verbal abuse for a couple of hours and yet remained pretty calm through it all. Yet, somehow it's their fault. http://reason.com/blog/2019/01/20/covington-catholic-nathan-phillips-video Darrell
  17. I promised Merlin that I would analyze his "solutions" to see if they were correct. Of course, Jonathan, Jon Letendre, and Max have already analyzed his "solutions," so my analysis won't really add anything new. Still, I need to make good on my promise. Here are Merlin's solutions as taken from the relevant Wikipedia page: Aristotle's paradox is related to the fact that it is possible to find a one-to-one mapping of all the points in an interval of a particular length to all of the points in an interval of a different length. Since none of the "solutions" above has anything to do with the actual paradox, they are not solutions to the paradox. In fact, the paradox is misstated in the quote above. The fact that the smaller circle moves a distance that is different from its circumference is a simple mechanical observation, not a paradox. Max gives the solution to the paradox above: That is of course the fallacy. The interval [0,2] contains infinitely many points, and infinity is not a natural number, therefore the notion of density doesn't work, as the density is also infinite, and 2 * ∞ = ∞. Cantor, cardinality, continuum and all that. It isn't surprising that people like Aristotle and Galileo didn't understand such things well. Therefore those helpless attempts to consider circles "jumping" or "waiting" to make up for differences in traveled distance in Aristotle's paradox. Because the number and density of points in an interval are infinite, it makes no sense to compare the number or density of points in a interval to the length of the interval. 2 * ∞ = ∞. One of the "solutions" given by Merlin, involves the use of cycloids. Although cycloids don't help with the solution of Aristotle's paradox, they can be used to help solve another problem that some people seem to be having, namely comprehending the fact that a wheel may be rotating and translating at the same time. First, I will note the fact (pointed out by Max in an earlier post) that if a wheel rolls without slipping, the point of the wheel in contact with the ground must be stationary at the moment of contact. Since the quote above makes reference to Mathworld, I will use the equations listed there except that I will use "r" or "R" for the radius of the circle. If R is the radius of the large circle and if it rolls on its line, then the motion of a point on its circumference is given by the parametric equations: x = R * (t - sin(t)) y = R * (1 - cos(t)) Those are the equations of the point that starts in the 6 o'clock position. Let (u, v) be the velocity of the point. Then (u, v) = (dx/dt, dy/dt) or u = R * (1 - cos(t)) v = R * sin(t) Now, we can observe that (u, v) = (0, 0) whenever t = 2 * π * k, for k = 0, 1, 2, ... In other words, the point is stationary whenever it returns to the 6 o'clock position. Now, consider a point on an inner circle of radius r < R that starts in the 6 o'clock position. As claimed above, the point does indeed describe a curtate cycloid given by the equations: x = R * t - r * sin(t) y = R - r * cos(t) Again, we can calculate the velocity of the point by taking derivatives: u = R - r * cos(t) v = r * sin(t) Since -1 <= cos(t) <= 1, we have R - r <= u <= R + r. Therefore, the horizontal component of the velocity is never equal to zero. In fact, it is always strictly greater than zero. Therefore, the inner circle does not roll on its line. When the point is in the 6 o'clock position, its speed is equal to R - r which shows that the wheel is skidding or slipping in the +x direction. We can also consider the case in which the inner circle rolls on its line and the outer circle is along for the ride. In this case, we have a prolate cycloid given by: x = r * t - R * sin(t) y = r - R * cos(t) Again: u = r - R * cos(t) v = R * sin(t) In this case, the horizontal component of the velocity is zero whenever r - R * cos(t) = 0. That happens when cos(t) = r / R. Now, consider a right triangle with leg a = r and hypotenuse c = R. Then the length of the other side, b = √(R2 - r2) so that sin(t) = √(R2 - r2) / R. But, that implies that sin(t) =/= 0 so that the vertical component of the velocity is not zero at the same time as the horizontal component. Therefore, the outer circle (or wheel) never has a point in stationary contact with its line. It is always skidding or slipping on its surface. The prolate case can also be examined by first setting the y-component of the velocity equal to zero. That happens whenever the point is in either the 6 o'clock or 12 o'clock position. In this case, we are only interested in the case in which the point is at the bottom which happens whenever t = 2 * π * k, for k = 0, 1, 2, ... In that position, the horizontal component of the velocity, u = r - R which shows that the large wheel is slipping backward --- opposite the direction of motion of the center point. As I said at the outset, this demonstration doesn't show anything beyond what was already shown by numerous graphical and mathematical methods. It merely serves to illustrate the point that using cycloids results in the same conclusion as other methods. Darrell
  18. If you're bored and have extra time, here is a video explaining how to build one. Darrell
  19. Just as a point of interest, someone in my family used to have a contraption like the one depicted above, except that instead of having a crayon, the end of the rod had a handle. I think it was called a "Do nothing." You could turn the crank for hours and by doing so you would accomplish ... nothing. Darrell
  20. Since I came late to the party, I decided to try to solve the problem without looking at other solutions and came up with a slightly different approach. Let r be the distance between the two pins and let the origin of the coordinate system be in the middle of the figure. Then, by the Pythagorean theorem, x2 + y2 = r2 That is also the equation of a circle. We can also give the equations of a circle in parametric form: x = r*cos(t) y = r*sin(t) Given that, what would the equations of the crayon be? Let R be the distance from the y-pin to the crayon. Then, if X and Y are the coordinates of the crayon: X = -R*cos(t) Y = (R + r)*sin(t) But, those are just the parametric equations of an ellipse. The equation of the ellipse can be written in standard form by combining the two equations: X2/R2 + Y2/(R+r)2 = 1. So, the figure is an ellipse with y as the long axis. Darrell
  21. I'm just going to restate Aristotle's Wheel Paradox for people who don't seem to understand it because of the mechanical aspects of the problem. Forget about wheels. Instead, consider the function f(x) = 2x defined on the interval [0, 1]. Then, if y = f(x), y is defined on the interval [0, 2]. The function f(x) has an inverse, so that x = f-1(y). Specifically, x = y/2. Now, let yi be any point in [0, 2]. Then there is a corresponding point, xi = yi/2 in [0, 1]. Similarly, let xj be any point in [0, 1]. Then there is a corresponding point, yj = 2xj in [0, 2]. Now, assume that the interval, [0, 2] contains N points. Then the interval [0, 1] also contains at least N points because for every point in [0, 2] there is a corresponding point in [0, 1]. Similarly, if [0, 1] contains M points, then [0, 2] also contains at least M points. Therefore, M must equal N. But, the length of the interval [0, 1] is 1 and the length of the interval [0, 2] is 2, a paradox. I might not quite be doing the paradox justice, but consider the following: If there are N points in the intervals [0, 1] and [0, 2], then the density of points in the first interval is N/1 or just N, while the density of points in the second interval is N/2. So, the density of points in the interval [0, 1] is twice the density of points in the interval [0, 2]. Now, if I double the number of points in the interval [0, 2], then the number of points in the interval [0, 1] must also double and the converse is also true. But, the density of points in the interval [0, 1] is still twice that of the points in [0, 2]. So, if I keep doubling the number of points in the intervals indefinitely, the density of points in the shorter interval will always be twice that of longer interval. And, in the limit of infinitely many points, the limit of the ratio of the densities will equal 2: A (seeming) paradox. I'll return to the mechanical problem later. Darrell
  22. Hi Max, Perhaps I can choose files, but when I've tried that in the past, I've had difficulties. That's why I started copying and pasting. Looks like I'll have to start dragging and dropping. I don't know what Total Commander is, but that wasn't really the point. I just mentioned using Windows Explorer in order to make things concrete --- I'm dragging and dropping from a file system viewer rather than from an image viewer. I'm not sure if this upload limitation is a new thing or what. I'm guessing that I wouldn't be able to upload the picture of the three bottles any longer. You seemed to indicate that you thought the limit was cumulative, but I'm not sure at this point. Darrell
  23. For your amusement: BTW, I'm having the same problem as Max. I seem to be severely limited in the amount of imagery I can upload. I did notice that it makes a difference whether I copy and paste from Irfanview or just drag and drop from Windows Explorer. Irfanview seems to expand the image to the equivalent of a bmp for display purposes even if the file is stored on disk as a gif. Therefore, dragging and dropping from Windows Explorer produces a smaller upload if the file is stored on disk as a gif. Darrell