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The perils of Objectivism 
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Post The perils of Objectivism
I’ve read a great deal concerning Objectivism, trying to filter the good from the bad, and it’s not a simple thing. For the most part, Objectivism represents a sort of social structure with remarkable parallels to medieval Europe. The efforts of many benefit the few.

What’s sinister about Objectivism is its claim to moral superiority, in spite of its moral inferiority. It’s my opinion that in this ideology, like in many others, causation isn’t fully understood in how the ideology would be applied in the real world. For all the cowtowing about protecting “rights”, the system would only protect a set of rights that allow for serious societal degradation.

A good example is the minimum wage. Historically, when wages and work conditions weren’t enforced, those conditions trended towards the oppressive for the lowest ranks. This is because those at the bottom do not have the negotiating leverage of those at the top. The real world shows the truth of this.

One way to thin slice the issues presented by Objectivism is to look at productivity versus compensation. When an individual’s personal contribution to the production of a good is much greater than he is compensated for, the profit disparity goes upwards. This is a type of rent-seeking, where middle and upper management within a company use the leverage of their position to increase their compensation disproportionately above their productivity.

Everyone knows what the extremes of this disproportion look like, the examples are all over the news in the “incentive bonuses” or “retention bonuses” of upper management. No one would disagree that the increased responsibility should result in increased compensation. But I also think no one would disagree that the compensation has grown to be incredibly disproportionate. The math backs this up, as much as productivity can be quantified when compared to compensation.

Under the guise of protecting the “rights” of individuals, Objectivism instead protects the ability of those at the top to use leverage against those below. The recent surge in vilifying unions exacerbates this issue, taking away the only leverage the working class has.
Walmart is similar to a Feudal society in a number of ways, and represents the direction Objectivism would push us. A vast majority of Walmart’s work force make less than they are able to live on. Yet the few at the top make a king’s ransom. With the decline in mobility within the company, it’s not much different than the class immobility of feudalism.

The offspring of the wealthy that can afford a Harvard education are hired into middle and upper management of a company such as Walmart, epitomizing the same lineage-based societies of the past.

Objectivism truly is a curse to a healthy society, and is already deeply rooted in DC already. This should scare us into action. Instead, we see people parroting the talking points of Objectivism as if they make sense outside of fictional literature. The decline of the middle class in America is due directly to Objectivist style thinking, and we should classify it as dangerous and extreme as it’s polar opposite, Communism.


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Agreed Interbane.

There is a very boot-strappy line of thought involved which simply doesn’t represent the real circumstances of the world.

Check out this blog from one of our new booktalk members, JamesALindsay

http://goddoesnt.blogspot.com/search?up ... -results=7

"The Rumble" in an Air Conditioned Auditorium with Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly and a comment about American mythology


Where he investigates this idea to an extent.

I know someone who is mired in this objectivist mentality, and it leads to some strange real world dealings.

He asked his facebook friends what he should have done:

A woman, apparently a single mother, had gotten stuck in the parking lot of a big box store. He helped her push her van loose but then after the fact he wondered if maybe the more appropriate thing for him to do would have been to let her stay stuck. She would have lingered longer in the snow, had a much worse day, but in the end she would have helped herself and gained self-actualizing abilities in un-sticking herself… or so I imagine the idea goes.

It flies in the face of our notions of compassion. The way I’ve heard it explained is always very selfish with no apparent up-side, except for the person who is doing the selfish thing.

My conception of morality is very simple. Working as a team is more effective than working on your own. You can get a lot more done with a small team than any one of those individuals could do alone. So that leads naturally to how to get along with your team members so that everyone can live together peacefully and continue working as a team to continue to reap the benefits of team effort. This is the basis of why people try o be nice to eachother, and the empirical root of morality.

Objectivism seems to make a virtue of relying on the self to the point of excluding the group entirely, except when you’ve got to the point that you can use others as goods and material. At which point they can either get to boot-strapping or they deserve the tread-marks on their backs.


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Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Interbane, Objectivism does NOT villify unions. People are free to join them, only thing is employers are NOT forced to negotiate with them. Unions have no special rights, like they do today.


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Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:56 pm
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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
I'm beginning to rethink my position on Objectivism. I appreciate the posts, Interbane and johnson1010. You're making sense.



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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Chris wrote:
I appreciate the posts, Interbane and johnson1010. You're making sense.


This stuff is simply too complex to entirely understand. I'm always afraid I'm missing vital information that would show me to be wrong, so I read(listen) more and more. There's a beauty to the simplicity of Objectivism and Libertarianism, but adherence to these ideologies is shrinking government in all the wrong ways.

I'm also a proponent of entitlement programs because the safety net of unemployment has kept me from the brink of despair in the past. What missing from most conversations is a comprehensive perspective. Entitlement programs create moral hazards. That's well known and well studied, and there are moochers. That's tragic, but it's the lesser of two evils. There are other ways to dampen the moral hazards without taking away the safety nets.

There's something to be said of increasing the size of participants for risk-pooling. Each of the economics books I've read recently have touched on this, and expressed the fact that the largest possible pool is also the most economical. Privatizing our risk-pools necessarily leads to greater volatility within each, and the profits more than offset any inefficiencies of a bureaucracy.

MrA wrote:
Interbane, Objectivism does NOT villify unions. People are free to join them, only thing is employers are NOT forced to negotiate with them. Unions have no special rights, like they do today.


That's a distinction without a difference. You're right, Objectivism does not vilify unions. However, the end result is no different. Unions would not exist without the shield of employee protections. Even WITH them, armies of workers are being compensated far below their productivity level. Meanwhile, those with the most leverage are compensated far above their productivity level. Note that productivity level includes "working smarter not harder", by organizing teams of people and giving expert advice.

If we switched wholesale to Objectivism, you'd see a company like Walmart polarize along this spectrum to an even greater degree. Currently, I think the structure borders on immoral. Objectivism would exacerbate that by taking away most employee rights under the guise of protecting employer rights.

Answer this MrA, do you think the millions of Walmart employees would be served better under Objectivism? Give a straight answer, with your reasons. I'm truly interested in your response.

Johnson wrote:
My conception of morality is very simple. Working as a team is more effective than working on your own.


Nature agrees. The most effective systems have specialized parts, and even some parts that are willing to sacrifice a great deal for the benefit of all. When groups of cells started working together, slowly and progressively organisms started to develop. It's the difference between a human being and a blob of algae. The same is true of packs of animals versus individuals. I'm not sure if the analogy holds, but it's elegant. How can we solve issues like Global warming or conservation of resources or engage in long-payback R&D when it's every man for himself?


One reason I empathize with smaller government is that government is behind most of the rent-seeking opportunities that exist. However, I think this is similar to the issue of entitlement programs. We need to limit rent-seeking at the same time that we retain necessary regulations. That would start with minimizing private influence on public officials by reforming campaign finance. See 'Republic Lost" by Lawrence Lessig. Politicians in DC spend more time raising money than they do anything else. It's a frustrating and difficult endeavour, and large donations sway their opinion even when they pretend it doesn't. When a single phone call meets their personal daily 'quota' for fundraising, the donor has their ear. The examples are manifold. This creates a dependency that is tangible and powerful, and the policy drift of the last 40 years is ample evidence.


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Johnson1010 wrote:
Objectivism seems to make a virtue of relying on the self to the point of excluding the group entirely, except when you’ve got to the point that you can use others as goods and material


That is terribly inaccurate. Rand brand of egoism does not use others as goods and material in Objectivism.

Those interested in Rands morality, read my review of Tara Smiths book, Ayn Rands Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist here:

http://www.bookandreader.com/forums/f6/ ... 24530.html


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
For what it's worth, I make rather a lot of comments about Objectivism (though often under the broader banner in which it is contained: capital-L ideological Libertarianism) on my blog in a variety of the posts. If desired, I could post links to some of them, but I won't spam with those unless people would like me to. To quickly make my opinion on the matter clear, I would generally agree with Interbane and Johnson: Objectivism is not a good philosophy that anyone should be following with any seriousness.

I'm still refining my thinking on questions about Libertarianism (I see at least three classes of libertarians, and only the ones I would call ideological "big-L" Libertarians are so closely tied to Objectivist thought), but I think the big-L sort tend to vastly oversimplify the concepts of "liberty" and therefore miss the boat. Objectivism is certainly in that class of oversimplification. A friend of mine summarizes it by saying that big-L Libertarians seem to miss that liberty in a functioning society entails "responsibility to do as one ought, not just freedom to do what one will." I think it's a little more complex than that, though, of course.

To very briefly summarize, I expect that there are at least three kinds of "liberty." Most researchers recognize two, and I don't mean to step on their toes, but it is my somewhat not-fully-qualified opinion (as I don't research these things formally--I'm a mathematician that has been researching ideology and religion full time for two years now as a side project) that they are missing at least one kind.

1. "Positive liberty" is the freedom to do what one will, essentially.
2. "Negative liberty" is the freedom not to have to suffer the consequences of other people's unwanted actions.
3. "Opportunistic liberty" (the one not commonly recognized) is the idea that your liberty is inherently limited by your opportunity set, which is usually determined by access to resources or capital but sometimes by other factors like gender or race, depending upon your local culture.

Positive liberty is clearly understood and needs little elaboration (I hope...). Negative liberty is harder. In a very simplistic sense, it entails the freedom not to get raped or shot by my fellows. It also is idea that I have the freedom to enjoy a tranquil environment (and is thus the basis for city noise ordinances, for example). Opportunitistic liberty merely states that one is not free to do things outside of their opportunity set, which could range from "jump to the moon" in a base, physical sense to "buy something out of one's price range."

My experiences (which are rather substantial, living in the South as I do) with Randian Objectivists and big-L Libertarians has indicated to me that it seems that they commit the following essential errors that render their philosophy unworkable (and, really, obscene):
1. They elevate positive liberty a bit too high up there in the scheme of importance and feel it should not be restricted by anything except the motivations of the individual.
2. They recategorize the definition of negative liberty to mean "living without coercion," which often also relies upon a very simplistic force-based definition of coercion. Particularly, they use this recategorization simply to bolster the idea that there should be few, if any, restrictions upon positive liberties so long as those aren't "illegal" or "violent," points they are usually pretty loose about the definitions of. This has the effect of using the concept of negative liberty (the liberty not to have things done to you) to essentially repaint it as a reinforcement of freedom to positive liberty (the liberty to do things as you will). E.g. they miss the point that we enjoy a certain freedom (freedom of not being poisoned) by having, for example, a dairy cut their milk with water and white paint to cut costs.
3. They completely, completely ignore the realities of opportunistic liberty, often saying "if you don't like where you are or how things run there, you have the liberty to move." No, really, you don't, particularly in economic traps like the Rust Belt at present since it is likely that you possess insufficient resources to finance such an undertaking. This also appears with "you can just get another job." Not always.
4. They fall for the incorrect notion that human beings are (or even that they are capable of being) rational actors that can identify and then act in their best interests. This is not only apparently untrue; it is demonstrably untrue.
5. They believe people more able than is real to balance their needs for short-term and long-term successes.
6. They often believe, entirely erroneously, that "government," "collectivism," and "statism" automatically imply a restriction of liberty. Indeed, governments, which are by definition a form of collectivism and statism, are the only manners by which we establish, secure, and promote individual liberties.

At the bottom of it, Objectivism is an over-the-top knee-jerk reaction to the totalitarian communism that Ayn Rand experienced as a child, and it is an entirely unworkable philosophy (if one is interested in a society) that essentially would have every individual act as a surly teenager (which includes pretending that Mom doesn't have his/her back and isn't the actually enabler of his/her surly, rebellious, "independent" lifestyle). That's why is polar-opposite to totalitarian communism.


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Interbane wrote:
Answer this MrA, do you think the millions of Walmart employees would be served better under Objectivism? Give a straight answer, with your reasons. I'm truly interested in your response.


How is this even relevent? Right now the workers can serve themselves - dont like Walmart, stop working for them, consumer that dont like WalMarts low prices, dont shop at their store. They are as free to serve themselves as they would be in laissez-faire, in that respect.

Interbane wrote:
I'm also a proponent of entitlement programs because the safety net of unemployment has kept me from the brink of despair in the past.


And how do those programs get their funding? By violating individual rights via taxation. I am absolutely opposed to entitlement programs- health, retirement, education, etc. Why not get in such a program in a way that does not violate rights, like a voluntary program? Why use force? What gives you the moral right to do it?


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Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:13 am
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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
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How is this even relevent? Right now the workers can serve themselves - dont like Walmart, stop working for them, consumer that dont like WalMarts low prices, dont shop at their store.


MrA, there is nothing that is more relevant. Your simplistic stance is that unemployment is better than employment. How is that better? You think Walmart's employees could find work elsewhere by snapping their fingers? The key component that is immoral is the disparity between productivity and compensation. Objectivism makes it worse.

Quote:
They are as free to serve themselves as they would be in laissez-faire, in that respect.


What you call freedom equates to a person taking the only job available, and that job paying less than they are able to live on. Without protections to offset the leverage that employers have, the working class would be even more oppressed. That is a bastardization of freedom, a guise to protect the pockets of the wealthy. People are already being taken advantage of on a massive scale, and Objectivism would push us in the wrong direction.

Quote:
And how do those programs get their funding? By violating individual rights via taxation.


In the real world, there are plenty of people who forego "voluntary" safety nets. Perhaps because they are young, or because they are misinformed. Or they can't afford it. In societies without such a safety net, people die. Is death for friends and family better than violating a person's rights? Which is the lesser of two evils?

Quote:
Why use force? What gives you the moral right to do it?


Because it is the only way we've found to minimize an even greater evil. What gives you the moral right to protect millionaires while good people die on the street through a stroke of bad luck? Especially when said millionaires make far more than their productivity level? Is it moral to allow them the leverage to take home more than is justified? Do you think it's moral for a company to fire all it's employees at the same time it gives a massive bonus to those at the top just before bankruptcy? These are horrible injustices, and Objectivism would make them much worse.


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Interbane wrote:
Because it is the only way we've found to minimize an even greater evil. What gives you the moral right to protect millionaires while good people die on the street through a stroke of bad luck?


Because those people hold no claim on anothers property. The money those millionaires have is theirs. The money I have from working as a janitors is mine. People that are unwilling or unable to earn money, or dont have money, their need of money is NOT a claim on mine, or said millionaires. Property rights in laissez-faire capitalism protects my earnings and my property from others, no matter if they are starving and dying without it, the governement in LFC cannot violate property rights by using force to take some of my money and redistributing it into their pockets or taking food out of my fridge and putting it into one of their fridges, because they are to recognize, uphold and protect said rights, not violate them. If I want to, I can give a few crumbs of food to the starving, or not. Their hunger is not a claim on my money or my food. If they decide to mug me or steal my food, then they are using force against me, and there are laws against that, police, criminal justice system, and government whose sole purpose is to protect me from those that initiate the use of force against me.


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Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:42 am
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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Quote:
The money those millionaires have is theirs. The money I have from working as a janitors is mine.


Says who? Hasn't it occurred to you at any point in these conversations that maybe some of the money people make isn't acquired through justified means? That by using leverage, more money can be acquired than a person has a right to? You paint a black and white picture that would completely hide such injustices. There is a war going on in the corporate world where those at the top try to increase their incomes above their productivity, while driving down workers compensation below their productivity. That problem is not solved in Objectivism, by any party. It would grow to a Plutocratic dystopia. Or there would be riots long before. It's a disgusting ideology MrA.

EDIT - I missed the consequences of your answer. You believe it is okay to let good people die on the street, meanwhile letting millionaires keep money that in many cases, was unjustly acquired. Really?


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
Mr A wrote:
Because those people hold no claim on anothers property. .


This is technically incorrect as it is the government, which is an extension of the people that form it (at least in democratic societies like our own) that establish and secure property rights. Property rights do not exist in nature and are devised by social and legal contracts (more on the latter). Without the force of the will of everyone behind the government to establish and secure property rights via those legal contracts, there would be no property rights, and your entire argument falls apart. Thus, we all have a claim, though not the simplistic kind is the only one you might thing exists, on everyone's property via the social contract that creates and maintains those property rights.


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
To wit, one could imagine the following scenario in the rampantly individualist Objectivist dystopia:
A: "This is my property; you have no right to it or claim upon it. Please leave."
B: "Says who?"
A: "Says me, that's who."
B: "Why should I care what you say? Who are you?"
A: "I'm the property owner; that's who!"
B: "But I don't care what you say about that and have no reason to care."
A: "Would you like it if I just came and took your property?"
B: "Who said I have any property? Who says I'm taking anything? How would you try to take it, anyway?"
...
You can see that forceful coercion would be likely to follow soon, unless A were to entirely concede his claim upon the ownership of any property--in the absence of government contracts (here in the forms of deeds) that are enforced by the power of the state and the legal architecture. So immediately, the Objectivist is faced with the quandary of having to create a government (a form of collectivism) to define and enforce property rights, some minimal function, you might say, of statism.

Then the fly gets in the pudding because at that point, you have to start defining exactly what it is that the government has power to do, how secure it can make those rights, how it will enforce infringements of the legal architecture that defines those rights, and how it will resolve disputes between individuals over those rights, as any written legal code will be insufficient to cover all possible permutations of the situations.

What do you end up with? Objectivists coming to define laws that they then end up complaining about as if they are monstrous failures that infringe upon individualism. Outside of adolescent-grade quasi-philosophy, we call this a paradox and abandon the framework that gives rise to it.


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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
I've been following this discussion with interest and offer a couple comments:

johnson1010 wrote:
I know someone who is mired in this objectivist mentality, and it leads to some strange real world dealings.

He asked his facebook friends what he should have done:

A woman, apparently a single mother, had gotten stuck in the parking lot of a big box store. He helped her push her van loose but then after the fact he wondered if maybe the more appropriate thing for him to do would have been to let her stay stuck. She would have lingered longer in the snow, had a much worse day, but in the end she would have helped herself and gained self-actualizing abilities in un-sticking herself… or so I imagine the idea goes.

If your acquaintance is truely 'mired' in objectivist mentality I suggest, if this happens again, that rather than just letting the woman stay stuck and drive away quietly he should drive up and shout out "Hey lady, get yourself un-stuck!!" and then roar off in a cloud of smoke and snow. Now that would make the point and I'm sure she would start pulling up those boot-straps right away! :mrgreen:

JamesALindsay wrote:
At the bottom of it, Objectivism is an over-the-top knee-jerk reaction to the totalitarian communism that Ayn Rand experienced as a child, and it is an entirely unworkable philosophy (if one is interested in a society) that essentially would have every individual act as a surly teenager (which includes pretending that Mom doesn't have his/her back and isn't the actually enabler of his/her surly, rebellious, "independent" lifestyle). That's why is polar-opposite to totalitarian communism.

Exactly, 'surly teenagers'. I think you've nailed it. I can picture Ayn Rand's 'objectivist' characters as surly teenagers.



Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:37 pm
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Post Re: The perils of Objectivism
I suggested that he should have "pants'd" her, then turned on his brights so that everyone could laugh at her.

Millionaires.

But have millionaire’s actually earned their money?

There are a lot of references to rights in this discussion. Lets not forget that rights are not natural or god given. They are agreed upon by people. If rights WERE natural, like a natural law, there would be no way to have rights violated.

What right do you actually have? You have the right to die in the worst way possible. Starving to death, lying on your back in the dirt, a sharp rock between your shoulder blades under the blaring sun, while scorpions lay eggs in your ear canals.

Nothing in nature demands that can’t happen. The only thing which might save you from that fate is the empathy of your fellow humans for it is we who ensure the safety and “rights” of our brothers and sisters.

Millionaires and worse, billionaires are not natural, and they do not “deserve” their money. Accumulation of such billowing storms of money is only possible through the action of society. For the vast majority of human history it wasn’t really feasible to have possessions. We were nomadic hunter / gatherers and possessions would have been something of a liability after a point. Farming introduces the ability to stay put and to accumulate material goods. And it also introduces true excess. This is a new development and not one we are naturally equipped to deal with.

Take a look at the obesity problem in rich countries, the US in particular. We are not well equipped to deal with excess.

So capitalism and making money are fine ideas and for the most part everyone can get behind them. But there is a systematic flaw in the idea which doesn’t really manifest until there is enough leverage in one group to begin dominating the competition, at which point it isn’t business skill, or marketing savvy which allows you to conquer new competitors, but the sheer momentum of so much filthy lucre.

We all agree when somebody makes the best bread and sells it that they should keep their profit. We agree when somebody starts a bakery and sells lots and lots of bread that they should keep their profit. What happens when you don’t need to be a baker to make bread? What happens when you don’t need to pay people to knead the dough? What happens when you own a thousand automated bakeries and have access to stream-lined distribution networks so that your bread can be anywhere on the planet before it goes stale?

Somewhere here there is a disconnect. Somewhere here we go from making sure people get to keep the money they earn to ensuring the ability of rich people to amass ludicrous amounts of money.

How do millionaires deserve their millions? How much of that money have they earned, and how much of it comes from a short circuit in our system where we continue to protect their claim on money which might more properly be funneled to all the people who are actually doing the work?
Lets put this in a different light.

A man see’s a gigantic animal, say a wooly mammoth. He goes to the rest of his 99 starving neighbors and organizes a hunt. He stands on a rock, points at the mammoth and all the people run out there with their spears, which they made themselves, get up close and start trying to take the beast down. Some of them are killed or maimed in the process. Finally the beast dies.

The first man walks up to the carcass, having watched the whole thing go down from his perch on the rock, puts his foot on it and claims it as his own. He then has somebody else cut off small chunks of the mammoth to give to all the little people who work for him and they walk away with a total of 5% of the mammoth meat. The rest is left to the man who first saw the beast because he “deserved” it .

At some point it really just stops making sense that a person should keep all the heaps of money that they are able to pull in just because they are able to do so. You can see form the mammoth example how absurd it is.


_________________
In the absence of God, I found Man.
-Guillermo Del Torro

Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:43 pm
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