Steve Gagne

Demographics

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Interesting that I started this discussion a long time ago and now it's moved elsewhere.

Just to throw something into the pot, because I'm in that kind of mood, consider this: it seems that religion is dying a death in the UK (hurray), see:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml...17/nrelig17.xml

However, there is no rational philosophy to replace it (boo). According to the above study, the reason why religion is dying out is that Christian parents have only a 50-50 chance of passing their belief on to their offspring, whereas atheists are almost always successful.

If religion is in terminal decline, it creates a nice hole for O'ism - all we need is a way to make it appealing to the average lay person who doesn't want to spend hours wracking his brains over it. I know I'm going to come into a ton of criticism for this, but hey, if we want to make it accessible to the general public we need to meet the general public at a level where they are. That's why Christianity is so successful (although I think the major part is their community-building). I never know how to pass O'ism on - I love the Virtue of Selfishness book but Rand's introduction makes me shy away from giving it to people because selfishness still has that taboo ring to it.

I'm talking about making it easy to pass a philosophy on here.

I think it is possible to make it accessible - the UK entertainer, Derren Brown, has written a book called 'Tricks of the Mind' - his chapter on bad science and bad thinking is a brilliant and lucid introduction on how to reason. I enjoyed reading it and I learnt a heck of a lot. He managed to make a potentially complicated topic user-friendly. That's the kind of book I can lend to my friends.

And I'm happy being childless - permanently.

Edited by Fran

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If it's true that the average Objectivist does not reproduce at replacement rates, and it's true that having children is not a particularly rational act of self-interest for most people, then if everyone were to be converted to Objectivism, that would end the human race within a few generations. Is everyone OK with that outcome?

But if everybody became O'ist then Capitalism would be unrestrained, meaning our scientific knowledge would accelerate. All we need to do is extend the human lifespan by fifty years to allow science to catch-up, allowing us to extend our lifespan another fifty years and so on. Or something to that effect. Therefore, we could, potentially, extend our lifespans to such an extent that the low birth-rate wouldn't matter. After all there are quite a few O'ists that have reproduced, so it's not like there'd be no new births.

I'm all for living 'forever' :)

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I haven't done a serious survey, but I'll bet that Objectivists reproduce at a rate far lower than average for people living in their neighborhood. I'll also bet that it's not too controversial to say that Objectivists typically reproduce at lower than replacement rates.

As this thread shows, it's pretty hard to come up with compelling philosophical reasons why having more children is something good Objectivists should start doing.

Actually the negative has been asserted without anything beyond a whiney "NO I DON'T WANT THAT", whereas the positive has been argued: if it weren't for having babies, you wouldn't have ever been here to criticize them. Your life is a value. It exists NOW because you were born, and were a child, sometime in the past. Looking from the specific to the general, this is a universal condition of human life, hence necessary by nature, and looking back from the general to the specific, it is applicable in principle to every and all human life. (And as you observe following, without continuance by reproduction, human life ceases, i.e., all values come to an end. Choosing to end the capacity for rational choice is self-contradictory, not a rational choice.)
If it's true that the average Objectivist does not reproduce at replacement rates, and it's true that having children is not a particularly rational act of self-interest for most people, then if everyone were to be converted to Objectivism, that would end the human race within a few generations. Is everyone OK with that outcome?
No, I am not "OK" with that. The choice NOT to have children is the "not particularly rational act", especially in a world in a state of war. The concrete-bound mind, unable to see beyond the present, sees the war and says, "what a horrible world! I cannot risk or afford the effort it will take to care for another in this ghastly world! And for such a dubious reward!" The one who has the vision sees beyond the battle, and with the grace and confidence of one who has already won his war, looks to rebuild from the ruins. I'm assuming that those who are raised with rationality will have more reason to understand it and embrace it than those who don't; they, our children, are our fellow workers in our efforts to rebuild.

You don't want to be part of that? Fine. Starve:

"The only inalienable right is to die for ones beliefs. Those who choose beliefs over knowledge, as well as those who don't know the difference, will not survive the collapse. In most cases, they will have done the only good thing they have ever done, which is to take their defective genes out of our species." -- Don Sisco, AKA Kurt Saxon, founder of Atlan Formularies & Survivalism.

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Steve, I got two words for you:

Ayn Rand.

Born in Tsarist Russia. And--and--she had no children.

And yet. Not "not particularly rational," but exceptionally rational. And, a heck of a legacy, wouldn't you say? Even "heirs."

This kind of trendy trend-mongering you're talking about becomes more and more fictive the further into the future you project it. Human beings are not fruit flies. And rationality is--get this--a natural reaction to reality itself. It cannot die out any more than the human desire for beauty or our lamentable fear of the unknown. And as demonstrated by Ms. Rand, it can crop up just about anywhere. Who's to say the next Ayn Rand won't be born in Tehran? Not you, and not "demographics."

Rationality dying out? Because white people are having fewer babies than brown people? Or because your and my own wondrous rational genes might die without any heirs? C'mon, Steve!

Beyond all that, rationality has greater influence in the entire world today than at any other time in human history. Prove me wrong. The rate of information exchange, the velocity of technological advancements year after year, the success of capitalism in far flung corners of the world--what about these trends?

From where I sit, the "irrational world" is not on the brink of swallowing us up at all. On the contrary, the forces of unreason in the world are feeling extremely threatened, and rightly so! And what does a frightened, cornered animal do? It puffs itself up as big as it can and lashes out (hello? Terrorism? Suicide bombers? Fatwas on novelists?). Fundamentalist Islam is not a meaningful ideology on the rise, it is an ancient rageful order on the brink of its own obsolescence. Prove me wrong. I ain't saying they can't do a whole lot of damage in the meantime, but the writing is on the wall. Look where Soviet Russia was a generation ago and look at it today. Reason even brought the Catholic Church to heel, now it's Islam's turn.

I'm assuming that those who are raised with rationality will have more reason to understand it and embrace it than those who don't.

That is one HUGE assumption, Steve. Three words: human developmental psychology. You beg a few questions with this: Are you, yourself, the product of such a rationalist dynasty? Can you point to ANY such family line in any culture at any time in human history? You know, seriously, in light of all you've said on the topic here, I kinda feel a little sorry for any children you might bring into the world, seeing the heavy-handed agenda you have in store for the poor kids.

Anyone who makes the world a better place has given future generations something precious for which the most rational response is simply gratitude. Our gratitude to previous generations does not imply any obligation on their part, nor on ours. It is natural, however, that someone with a thriving self esteem would want to be the type of person future generations look back on with gratitude, just as we draw inspiration from the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.

Furthermore, a great many of the greatest artists and thinkers, the greatest achievers in history have left the world childless. Individuals have different strengths and contribute to the world in different ways.

C'mon, speaking for yourself, would you rather have Atlas Shrugged or Frank O'Connor Jr.?

-Kevin

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Kevin, you've done it again. Just as I was composing a post, you beat me to much of what I wanted to say.

Let me add only this: That I could more reasonably say that if we have an obligation to future generations, we fulfill it not by having children, whom we do not control and who therefore may grow up to be irrational and criminal, but that, rather, intelligent people are morally obliged to spend every minute of their lives writing books. For surely books educate more people in rationality than any other force on earth. I could say all this but I won't, because it would be ridiculous.

Barbara

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Dear Ms. Barbara:

You don't know me from adam, and owe me nothing in the way of a rational response. But I have always respected your independence and clarity. So, were you to respond to this thread, I would have expected better than "me, too" as your response.

Further, whereas unborn children will never become criminals (what a malevolent expectation!), neither will they become the productive people of the future. Least of all, the writers you would extoll.

(steve)

Dear Mr. Kevin:

In spite of your condescending attitude, I think that you really want to engage honestly on this topic. So be it. BQK-BQ3.

Steve, I got two words for you:

Ayn Rand.

Born in Tsarist Russia. And--and--she had no children.

And yet. Not "not particularly rational," but exceptionally rational. And, a heck of a legacy, wouldn't you say? Even "heirs."

Yes she did. Two words for you: Leonard Peikoff.

Two more words: James Valliant.

Dayam. If my kids misrepresented "my" thinking like that after I died, I'd rise up out of the grave & beat'em to death with a baseball bat. ;)

This kind of trendy trend-mongering you're talking about becomes more and more fictive the further into the future you project it. << nice alliteration ;) >> Human beings are not fruit flies. << ditto >> And rationality is--get this--a natural reaction to reality itself. << This is a contradiction of o'ist principle -- rationality is by nature volitional, and can only occur (1) by accidental discovery, or (2) by (project to your future response) behavioural modeling >> It cannot die out any more than the human desire for beauty or our lamentable fear of the unknown. << BUT it can be suppressed for extended periods of time, to the detriment of ALL. >> And as demonstrated by Ms. Rand, it can crop up just about anywhere. Who's to say the next Ayn Rand won't be born in Tehran? Not you, and not "demographics." << Maybe born there, but he/she will have to leave his/her homeland just as AR did to prevent being destroyed. >>

Rationality dying out? Because white people are having fewer babies than brown people? << White? Brown? I'm talking overall cultural heritage here, not skin color. BTW, I'm one of the "brown" ones. Family, even more so. Sounds more like white liberal guilt on your part. >> Or because your and my own wondrous rational genes might die without any heirs? C'mon, Steve! << Not a chance. At least 4 of my 13 kids were allowed to see the light of day, and as far as I know, they're all straight & willing. >>

C'mon yourself. It took soviet russia 70 years to dig themselves out of the mess they made, only possible from intellectual cross-pollenation from the west. (Project to your future response: two words -- behavioural modeling.) Three generations were sentenced to slavery and death in spite of Ayn Rand's presence in the academy there at the start of it. In spite of the rationality of many individuals who lived through it, the evil of communism still held for most of their lives, and they were sentenced to an unnecessary hell because of a society based in wrong ideas enacted by evil men. Yes, it collapsed from within. But what happened during that time? Generations being sacrificed & enduring torture for...nothing? And what has taken its place? The russian mafia? This is the model of rationality we should seek? But they haven't come up with any better, because, in spite of the proposition nation advocated by supposed objectivists and their co-religionists, there is no organic culture of freedom or rationality there, no "pool" of rational expectations from which to draw within their culture, except within certain narrow ethnic and religious groups.

Beyond all that, rationality has greater influence in the entire world today than at any other time in human history. Prove me wrong. The rate of information exchange, the velocity of technological advancements year after year, the success of capitalism in far flung corners of the world--what about these trends?

Beyond all that, where is your victory for rationality and capitalism? In a world where rationality has been equated to a one-world government dominated by brutal dictatorships? Loss of privacy equals advancement? The only place capitalism has a chance right now is in Costa Rica (r.i.p. Laissez-Faire City), while the rest of the world is being swallowed in fascist corporatism. The threats we faced when Ms. Rand was alive are not the same as the ones we face now, and it is a misguided respect for her that can cause us to dwell on the past in that way.

From where I sit, the "irrational world" is not on the brink of swallowing us up at all. On the contrary, the forces of unreason in the world are feeling extremely threatened, and rightly so! << wishful thinking >> And what does a frightened, cornered animal do? It puffs itself up as big as it can and lashes out (hello? Terrorism? Suicide bombers? Fatwas on novelists?). << Try worldwide fiat currency manipulations that dwarf "black tuesday," by Iraq, China, Iran, and Venezuela. >> Fundamentalist Islam is not a meaningful ideology on the rise, it is an ancient rageful order on the brink of its own obsolescence. Prove me wrong. I ain't saying they can't do a whole lot of damage in the meantime, but the writing is on the wall. Look where Soviet Russia was a generation ago and look at it today. Reason even brought the Catholic Church to heel, now it's Islam's turn.

Would that it were only that simple. "Fundamentalist Islam", as slimy as it may be, is just a cover story, and the US-financed Al-Q'aeda is merely the tip of the iceberg. The irrational brandishments of unbridled force by the US government in the last 15 years (Ruby Ridge, WTC I, Waco, OK City, Flight 800, Kosovo, Somalia, USS Cole, WTC II, IBT Indianapolis, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now, Ed Brown in New Hampshire), intended to destroy the will of the US populace and render them ineffective in withstanding the NWO, are even more effective than the communist-financed John Birch Society in confusing people into supporting their own destroyers. We're not talking about a centralized threat here, but "a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinc(ing) a design to reduce them under absolute despotism". (c.f. THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; Action of Second Continental Congress, July 4, 1776; The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America).

I'm assuming that those who are raised with rationality will have more reason to understand it and embrace it than those who don't.

That is one HUGE assumption, Steve. Three words: human developmental psychology.

Back to my previous reference -- two words: behavioural modeling.

Some more words: positive reinforcement for successive approximations. Where are they going to get it?

You beg a few questions with this: Are you, yourself, the product of such a rationalist dynasty? << My parents embraced objectivism as "recovering catholics". Beyond that, what are you saying in english? >> Can you point to ANY such family line in any culture at any time in human history? << I'm talking about cultural precepts as social contract, which I've already addressed in another thread here. Your comment is irrelevant. >> You know, seriously, in light of all you've said on the topic here, I kinda feel a little sorry for any children you might bring into the world, seeing the heavy-handed agenda you have in store for the poor kids. << Spare them your crocodile tears. My kids are grown, and they are responsible for their own agendas. BTW, I asked them specifically about this, and they think you are off the wall -- there is no "heavy-handed" expectation here, except for whim-worshipping solipsists that take their narcissistic desires as primary, and their reason as subsidiary. >>

Anyone who makes the world a better place has given future generations something precious for which the most rational response is simply gratitude. << True >> Our gratitude to previous generations does not imply any obligation on their part, nor on ours. << True. >> It is natural, however, that someone with a thriving self esteem would want to be the type of person future generations look back on with gratitude, just as we draw inspiration from the giants upon whose shoulders we stand. << True. >>

Furthermore, a great many of the greatest artists and thinkers, the greatest achievers in history have left the world childless. Individuals have different strengths and contribute to the world in different ways. << You never read my response to Fran, who started this whole discussion, "On a personal note, if you don't want children, why on earth would you consider having them?" If you have already made up your mind, recognize the consequences, accept them, and move on. If not, then understand how your own actions can obviate the consequences, and act accordingly. >>

C'mon, speaking for yourself, would you rather have Atlas Shrugged or Frank O'Connor Jr.? << I already have Love By Any Other Name, Las Dos Blancas (Two White Roses), Tal (Such), Ya No Estas (You're Not There Anymore), Abby, Carole, Virginia, Rosemary, Tad, La Cote de la Terre (The Edge of the Earth) -- not to be confused with La Ultima Lugar del Mundo (by Ricardo Montaner), Fifteen Years, Torpedo, Processional, among other musical compositions, as well as Yvonne Anita, Arthur Stephen, Daniel Alexander, and another child I will never know. Isn't that enough? In life, it's not always either-or, based on irrefutable proof. Many times, it's all-none, based upon a preponderance of the evidence. Ya pays yer money & ya takes yer chances. :logik: >>

-Kevin

Two apparently-different, but reality-related points: getting back to your topic of gratitude toward previous generations, you would have no gratitude if you had never been born, and consistency demands that we grant to any other human being that which we would recognize in ourselves; also, what we see in our own lives is what we can project on others, because we know nothing different. These points are the basis of what I was saying, and they still stand.

(steve)

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Dear Ms. Barbara:

You don't know me from adam, and owe me nothing in the way of a rational response. But I have always respected your independence and clarity. So, were you to respond to this thread, I would have expected better than "me, too" as your response.

Further, whereas unborn children will never become criminals (what a malevolent expectation!), neither will they become the productive people of the future. Least of all, the writers you would extoll.

(steve)

Steve, what would you have me do when I agree with someone's post? It is exactly true that I was about to state several of the points Kevin made in his post. I can't imagine that you think I should have simply repeated them. "Me, too," expresses my agreement.

I'm not clear on the meaning of your last paragraph. I'd appreciate it if you'd explain further.

Barbara

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Dear Ms. Barbara:

You don't know me from adam, and owe me nothing in the way of a rational response. But I have always respected your independence and clarity. So, were you to respond to this thread, I would have expected better than "me, too" as your response.

Further, whereas unborn children will never become criminals (what a malevolent expectation!), neither will they become the productive people of the future. Least of all, the writers you would extoll.

(steve)

Steve, what would you have me do when I agree with someone's post? It is exactly true that I was about to state several of the points Kevin made in his post. I can't imagine that you think I should have simply repeated them. "Me, too," expresses my agreement.

I'm not clear on the meaning of your last paragraph. I'd appreciate it if you'd explain further.

Barbara

Dear Ms. Barbara

Considering the gentleness of your response, it's clear my curtness toward you was out of line. I apologize, and will endeavor in the future not to make snap responses like the one above.

Regarding the 2nd graph, I'm hoping that your second comment on what legacy we leave future generations was ironic; you thought enough of it to write it, but then disowned it as "ridiculous".

You expressed dismay at the possibility that posterity might make bad choices ("whom we do not control and who therefore may grow up to be irrational and criminal" -- your words). To project that on those yet unborn struck me as unfair and wrongheaded, as if it were your general expectation that people are born evil. And that the only way to make sure they don't become evil, would be to make sure that they remain unborn. That is the origin of my comment about malevolence.

You also spoke of intelligent people writing books. If you eliminate posterity, there will soon be none left to read your books.

Now, as I said, I hope you were making this comment ironically, essentially holding up a mirror to accuse me of precisely the same thing. Saying that I am making the unfounded claim that the future children (in foreign lands) would be "born evil". If that is the case, please understand the thought is not lost on me; it's just not relevant in light of other topics I've touched on in other threads:

1) Cultural milieux as social quasi-contract;

2) Nature of knowledge acquisition (from test theory);

3) Nature of concept formation (from information theory);

4) Biological replacement as a basis of a generational social theory;

5) Discussions on the death of the Enlightenment 200 years ago;

6) Origins of the American Republic.

So, though you may see yourself in agreement with Mr. Kevin, you will also see by my response to him, that I find his defense of his position poorly thought out, poorly structured, poorly supported, and based in misunderstandings and misrepresentations of my position, if not outright lies. Not to mention a tone of ridicule from him more befitting "political correctness" or some other such version of social metaphysics.

Ms. Barbara, you and I are not children. You have your legacy, and I have mine; you have your ~45 year portfolio of writing, I have my ~40 year portfolio of music. I also have a family. We both speak from experience, not projection, and neither of us needs to suffer fools gladly. So I do appreciate the grace you bring to your answers here, and again, I apologize for my rudeness.

vty,

steve

p.s. Re: "Steve, what would you have me do when I agree with someone's post?" Well, if you were to state his case better, I would at least be able to accept a "me, too" from him. :smile:

Edited by Steve Gagne

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Steve,

Kevin is one of our wiser posters and just about as far from the obnoxious/aggressive jerk that can often be found on typical Objectivist forums as you can get. There exists a rhetorical posture (a technical one) called Principle of Charity. If you look at his post through that lens, you might see something different.

As the old commercial went, "Try it. You'll like it."

(I won't say "Try Kevin..." for obvious reasons.)

:)

Michael

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Steve,

Kevin is one of our wiser posters and just about as far from the obnoxious/aggressive jerk that can often be found on typical Objectivist forums as you can get. There exists a rhetorical posture (a technical one) called Principle of Charity. If you look at his post through that lens, you might see something different.

As the old commercial went, "Try it. You'll like it."

(I won't say "Try Kevin..." for obvious reasons.)

:)

Michael

My comment was: "BQK-BQ3."

So yours is....."WKP x BQK"?

Hmmmph. Polemics is a strange game. :homestar:

Ice cream,anyone?

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Judith,

My comment was: "BQK-BQ3."

So yours is....."WKP x BQK"?

It looks like chess notation. Others who are better versed in the game will have to take it from there...

Robert Campbell

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Judith,

My comment was: "BQK-BQ3."

So yours is....."WKP x BQK"?

It looks like chess notation. Others who are better versed in the game will have to take it from there...

Robert Campbell

Had to specify the W(hite)/B(lack) due to lack of column/move number notation.

Move: Black Queen's Knight to Black Queen 3. Part of a general power strategy of "controlling the center of the board."

Answer: White King's Pawn takes Black Queen's Knight.

I tried to play rugby chess but I got owned. There were complaints like "it's a bitch to get the dirty cleat marks out of the board."

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Steve, thank you for your apology; I appreciate it.

Yes, I was being ironic when I said that instead of insisting that we must all have children in order to create a future rational world, one could more reasonably insist that we all write books, which would be more likely to ensure that rational world. But there is nevertheless some truth to my statement. If we are to work and live for future generations, surely Ayn Rand, for instance, who was childless, has done more to ensure their rationality than the total of many thousands of mothers.

You wrote that I “expressed dismay at the possibility that posterity might make bad choices ('whom we do not control and who therefore may grow up to be irrational and criminal' -- your words). To project that on those yet unborn struck me as unfair and wrongheaded, as if it were your general expectation that people are born evil. And that the only way to make sure they don't become evil, would be to make sure that they remain unborn. That is the origin of my comment about malevolence.”

I have no malevolent expectations, nor do I think – and I did not suggest -- that people are born evil. What I do suggest is that they have free will, and that we cannot know how any given person will turn out. And please, I can’t imagine where, from my words, you got the impression that I think the only way to stop people from becoming evil is to make sure they remain unborn.

Nor do I understand why you think that I may have been saying that you, Steve, are “making the unfounded claim that the future children (in foreign lands) would be "born evil". “ That’s not what I said, not what I implied, not what I meant.

You wrote: “You also spoke of intelligent people writing books. If you eliminate posterity, there will soon be none left to read your books.”

But I have not the least desire to “eliminate posterity.” It’s obvious, on the basis of both past and present trends, that a great many people will decide to have children, which I consider a exemplary choice for those who wish to do so; and probably a lesser number will decide to do something else instead, which I also consider an exemplary choice if it is what they wish.

May I ask that you re-read my earlier short post and consider whether it in fact contains the ideas you appear to think it contains? I try to be clear when I write, although I don't always succeed, and to say precisely what I mean; and I don't think I said or implied the ideas you are inclined to ascribe to me.

Barbara

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