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Semiformalishmaybe

Clouds Partition the Sky

I was kind of amused at this chart PZ points us at - as is occasionally the case, I'm not sure of it's a strawman, weird humour, or something serious made by a believer.

There are bits that are likable and less so:

  • Atheistic Influence - yay!
  • Disbelief in Gods - yay!
  • Secularization - Probably yay, depending on what you mean
  • Disrespect of religious morality - Oh goodness this is a nuanced matter. Independent of the content of a moral system, I would probably say that religious morality is preferable over no non-self-oriented moral precepts, but I would prefer philosophical morality over both. Practically speaking, the content is a very big deal, and I'd consider the religious aspects of it to be a slave morality (not in the Nietzschean sense, more in the sense that morality is fed to one from outside as an untouchable object rather than refined from one's initial philosophy).
  • Increase of gluttonous behaviour - Bad! But .. does not follow from a loss of religious morality. Some people have good genes, others care about their health or appearance enough to curb their instincts and their diet. Gluttony is not pretty or healthy, but efforts to curb it can come from many causes, many of them not even remotely close to morality
  • Religious Ignorance in Children - Meh? I don't consider religious knowledge to be more important than any other intellectual pursuit - I find theology interesting but that's mainly because I am curious into how people think as well as in the value systems expressed by these systems. There's no particular need for most people to know religions particularly deeply, any more than I would expect knowledge of Kant, Lacan, or Milton to be important in everybody's interests.
  • Secularization of Christian Church - What does this even mean? The church declining direct involvement in state matters? The church becoming nonreligious? So long as churches are not actively grossly harmful to their members or society, I'd rather convince people away from them over the very long haul rather than either dictate their internal affairs or force them to close. The state may accidentally trod on them insofar as we reject their religiously inspired truth claims and are committed to teaching broad scientific consensus in the schools, and it may also place theocracy beyond the pale in politics or mandate other matters (e.g. equal and not separate place of women in society) to some strength, I don't believe the good secular state will take a firmer hand with religion.
  • Disrespect of Human Life - No. People merit considerable respect (although some of us may choose to not consider humans who have not (yet) had significant-enough brain development (e.g. a fetus beneath a certain age) to have significant personhood despite being a member of the species.
  • People as consumers only - Ugh no.
  • Increasing antisocial behaviours - Also no.
  • Disintegration of concept of truth - Not really, although it'd be nice to have people on board with the idea that truth is not a very simple concept, and many areas of human endeavour that contain claims that might be considered true or fale do not necessarily belong in that category. "Moral Truths" are not true or false, for example.
  • Dissolution of Religious Freedom - Not really, although I am comfortable with some controls or prohibitions on some value systems that are deeply racist, deeply sexist, or actively dangerous. In practice, I expect there would be very few instances of this being an issue.
  • Secular Authoritarian Governments - Depending on the author, there might be nothing wrong with this on most levels, although I'd rather have a reasonably organic society and legal system on the broad scale.
  • Legalised Genocide - WTF No!
  • Unification of Governments - Probably not to a great level. In some cases it might make sense - the EU is probably a reasonably good idea (if execution is off, that's fixable), although merging into a world government seems like a dangerous level of centralisation - to a certain extent the lack of coordination between governments allows for truths to be aired in ways that a world government might not. The people of the world are not ready for a world government.
  • Civil War - ?
  • Societal Collapse - Nope.
  • Mass Starvation - Also nope.
  • Human Extinction - Very much nope.

I found Vienna Teng's scrapbook for her shooting of the video for her song 「Gravity」 pretty interesting.

Julain AssangeのWikileaks - unsurprisingly propelled into cental stage of politics by large leak of US military data relating to war in Afghenistan. Central issues: what is to be done when military information that might be sensitive is released, and is radical openness positive in light of the idea that some of the information may be dangerous?

Wikileaks as a source of information on non-military matters - relatively less controversial (among my crowd) - too much PR and psychology mask the way information is presented, and without having hard facts about things not cleared by "impression managers", it's hard to discuss how businesses work or what they do. Wikileaks reveals that much of the "new, green, cares-for-the-people capitalism" is just fresh paint on the same profit-seeking entities we know of old, and that government is not simply serving any coherent set of notions of the public interest (although ultimate cyncism on government is also unwarranted, I hold). At one point, journalism led to some of this stuff coming out, but through misregulation and increasingly managed/clever PR by relevant companies and agencies, this role is not fully met. I believe it's rare that closedness ever benefits the public good in most matters, and that Wikileaks is quite benign on these matters - their work is to be lauded.

On the topic of military matters, matters are more complex and commentary is thick, drawing comments from Fidel Castro to Jimbo Wales. Points that I fundamentally accept as valid:

  • The war has been PR-managed in ways that limit the public's ability to understand the events of the war
  • Much of this PR management has been intended to protect the sensibilities of regional governments that have reasonable central agreement that cooperation with the US is a good idea but not all branches of their governments are on board with that perception and many contain active elements aiding dissident groups. Some of this is because of genuine sympathy with dissident causes, and some of this is traditional in that it aided them in their regional interests.
  • Politics of persuasion and coalition are very old and established modes of convincing, and they often do not benefit from the kind of openness supported by groups like Wikileaks. Tribal leaders, for example, might be easily persuaded to lean towards the government in disputes so long as their having done so is not placed in the spotlight - damage to their reputation and possibly risk of direct retaliation by militant groups for such a stance make openness on these topics very risky for them
  • Western forces are traditionally reliant on information superiority - radical openness threatens that mode of control in conflict
  • Jualian Assange is not a scholar on current affairs or geopolitics and Wikileaks takes a strong anti-military, anti-occupation stance that causes their analyses to depart from the facts they present at times (although they are good enough to seperate their analyses from releases, which is to their credit)
This is a classical question of openness in government - would we trade some of our ability to persuade, some of our ability to directly participate in military action, and possibly destabilise traditional regimes in order to, as individuals and traditional media sources, gain a highly non-PR-screened perspective on what's going on there? It's not an easy choice. Openness is not a magic idea that makes everything good - it requires real sacrifices, particularly in this realm.

Unsurprisingly, the whitehouse is pressuring its allies to squeeze Wikileaks (which is dangerously centralised, both in the person of Assange and in the funds needed to support the site infrastructure - it would not be hard to imagine the same laws that reasonably aim to prevent people from funding the remnants of the LTTE or radical Islamic militants being aimed at Wikileaks, particularly as I have not seen prominent political cover speaking for them as an organisation. If we're not to see the emergence of Wikileaks into the spotlight as a brief and fatal blip, we need to see them have some formidable patrons (difficult as they're anti-establishment in a more authentic way than we've seen in a long time). In theory, they should merit the same protections that media have always enjoyed, but our media traditions have decayed and Wikileaks may be pushing what would've been the boundaries that were there at their healthiest.

On the central questions, I am strongly inclined to think that Wikileaks-style disclosure on most topics is very important, but I don't want commitment to that style of openness to be a suicide pact. I'm comfortable with Wikileaks in their classical role of digging up dirt on government and business in modernised nations, but I've retreated from my initial gusto at the release of the military documents to being uneasy - I would love the openness we have with that information release if it doesn't preclude the possibility of having a reasonable resolution (or as close as we might expect) to our regional involvement, I would consider stifling of that information worthwhile but regretful if it made possible such a resolution, and if such a resolution is impossible I would like to go with the openness because it may have a transformative effect (in the long term) on the politics of those countries. I don't have good enough ability to weigh the effects or situations to turn this into an actual opinion on the war leaks, and I'm not prepared to pass judgement.

All this is considered in the light of the idea that Assange's politics are very different than mine, and that I consider the Afghan effort to be fundamentally well-intentioned and the route, roughly speaking, I would have western forces take to deal with the issues. Assange's efforts make a real discussion (with non-PR-cleared details) possible, which in the general case I appreciate.

Personal life: temporarily complicated but in a good way.

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