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Dying Babies and The Myth of American Freedom 796

One of America's most enduring and self-deluded myths about itself is that it's a free, thus morally superior country. It's not, as last weeks' feature on Princeton Bioethicist Peter Singer made clear. This society is riddled with unapproachable taboos. But technology is changing that, making some of our self-inflated notions of ourselves actually come true.

Even as technology systematically liberates the control of ideas from the hoary grip of ideologues, educators, clergymen and dogmatic politicians, the underlying tensions in culture and society grow. We are freer than ever, but we seem to like it less all the time.

In the past few weeks, a series of institutions and public figures have run headlong into America's mythology about itself, particularly the demonstrably absurd idea that this is a free country.

Censorship is a natural, perhaps even a biological instinct. Nobody likes to see himself as a censor but everybody, from school principal to parent to mayor to flamer, seems to feel the call. We almost reflexively want to quiet what disturbs, provokes and offends us.

Check out almost any topic or opinion posted on Slashdot. Even here, there's usually one or more - frequently lots more -- messages declaring that a person or idea doesn't belong here or shouldn't be expressed, assuming that the offending idea hasn't already been moderated into oblivion. And this is one of the freest places in media, new or old.

But technology, as any teenager knows, is a wicked censorship slayer. Almost all information is now available almost everywhere. Memes, ideas, arguments, opinions - none can be universally corralled or suppressed. Heretics and hell-raisers have never thrived so much.

Priests and ministers can't control dogma, lawyers can't monopolize the arcane and expensive language of law, politicians can't impose ideology, publishers can't monopolize editorial content, academics can't keep a lock on research, and journalism can't control the social agenda. Technologies like the Net and the Web have made this so.

But here's the irony. Even as technology makes censorship virtually impossible, people keep trying harder to do it.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art faces the loss of a third of its annual budget, even eviction, because the mayor of New York City finds a painting in an exhibit offensive.

Some leaders of the Reform Party are demanding Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura's ouster because of a Playboy interview in which he said, among other things, that people who support organized religion are weak-minded and needy. (Ventura ran his campaign on the Net, by-passing traditional media and expensive campaign structures). Good thing H.L. Mencken, the legendary columnist who savagely skewered members of the clergy as hypocrites, blowhards and airheads, died a generation ago. He couldn't get a job on any paper in America today.

GOP Presidential Candidate Pat Buchanan has been told - by Senator John McCain among others -- to leave the Republican Party because his book argues that the United States had no pressing self-interest in entering World War II.

And in perhaps the ugliest and most significant of all these conflicts, Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer has been reviled as a mass murderer and attacked by politicians, university contributors and trustees, and advocates for the handicapped.

He's been forced to teach in a guarded, unmarked classroom because he's argued that in certain circumstances, parents ought to have the right to kill a severely disabled newborn in order to prevent or end the child's suffering and preserve the family's happiness and well-being. Euthanasia, he argues, is sometimes a lot more compassionate than the withdrawal of life support systems.

The First Amendment has never been a particularly popular one. Americans have always embraced freedom until somebody says something they don't like. Then they like to fire the offenders, chase them away, close them down.

Technology makes all of these options unworkable. Hundreds of cable channels, faxes and videotape, e-mail and cellphones make the notion of quelling an idea or putting the person who advocates it out of business ridiculous. The Net is inherently uncensorable. There are too many chat forums, messaging systems, mailing lists and websites, and not enough cops.

When New York Mayor Guiliani threatened to shut down the Brooklyn Museum for displaying a painting of a black Madonna with a clump of elephant dung affixed to her chest, singer David Bowie announced he was putting the "offending" exhibit up on his website.

Buchanan regularly takes to talk radio and cable interview broadcasts to explain his philosophies about World War II directly to the public.

New technologies like the Net and the Web have liberated discussions of sexuality which, until a decade or so ago, were dangerous, if not impossible for most Americans.

Earlier this week, Slashdot published a story about Peter Singer in which his actual views - rather than outrageous and simple-minded distortions - were discussed.

The Singer controversy is, in fact, a significant reason to stop and consider the new reality of freedom and technology.

Singer is a complex, brave and brilliant philosopher and teacher. He is an empassioned animal rights activist and has argued for years that affluent people have a responsibility to donate some of their money to the less fortunate (he donates a fifth of his salary to groups that feed the poor).

He is doing precisely what thinkers, academics and critics are supposed to do: raise chillingly complex ethical issues that confront society but are rarely talked about. Princeton futurist Freeman Dyson, for example, has long hailed the idea that genetic engineering will remove the physically ill from the world. Genetic engineering is rapidly pushing us towards the idea of a Master Race - at least for wealthy, techno-centered cultures which can afford it - in which all humans brought into the world are tall, lean, smart, healthy and attractive.

But Dyson's much more politic about the way in which he expresses his ideas. He's never advocated anything as extreme as killing critically-ill newborns - a jarring idea. Some say that clearly is murder. But Singer doesn't advocate genocide or the callous disposal of the disabled. He's arguing that in extreme circumstances, parents should have the right to terminate the life of severely disabled newborns who have no self-consciousness or chance to survive.

Personally, I haven't even begun to formulate what I think about this idea. But I want-need to read, mull and talk about it. The wanton use of terms like "murder" and "genocide" make that impossible, and that means we aren't free either.

Singer is no monster, and the notion that he's an advocate of mass murder seems outrageously simple-minded and hysterical, a club to shut him up rather than a way to support or refute his ideas. The United States is using medical and other technologies that may result in genetic selection to remove physical, even psychological problems like alcoholism that are increasingly being linked to heredity (see Tuesday's story on Slashdot on genetically engineered kids).

Parents using in vitro fertilization and other contemporary fertility treatments routinely participate in disturbing genetic selections. Doctors performing IVF, for example, routinely examine egg and sperm matches for the "healthy ones." Some prospective parents have sought permission to abort fetuses over concerns about gender, even cosmetic issues.

As genetic screening tells prospective parents more and more about the children they're about to bring into the world, parents will inevitably - right or wrong - make complex choices about the children they choose to raise.

Do they want tall or short ones? Boys or girls? And especially, do they want - can they cope with? -- terminally ill or severely disabled ones? Inevitably, parents will argue that they have the right to make these decisions for themselves.

Parents already can avoid bringing children with certain serious diseases into the world through prenatal testing. Do they also, as Singer suggests, have the moral right to withdraw life support, or even approve lethal injections?

This is, after all, a country which wildly celebrates techno- medical "breakthroughs" like multiple births, even though they pose enormous health risks to the children involved and require massive and expensive public and community assistance.

The McCaughey family in Iowa was showered with gifts, from diapers to a new home, for their septuplets. But the country didn't seem to want to consider the fact that the fertility drugs they'd used had created a whole new kind of high-tech welfare family, producing children whose parents couldn't possibly support them financially, and perhaps not emotionally, either. Multiple births of fewer than six or seven aren't even stories any longer, they're so common, even as many pediatricians warn that such children are at high risk for illness and disability. In a world whose population is nearing six billion, the use of medical technologies to breed human offspring - in growing multiples -- transcends religion or philosophy. It may be the 21st century's most urgent social problem, particularly as food production continues to decline.

Patriotism is invoked by blockheads in the United States so often that it's easy to lose sight of the particular genius of the people who hatched the country. Singer exemplifies America's founders prescient convictions - born out of centuries of observing the gruesome interaction between religion and monarchies and free speech -- that it's often the most upsetting ideas that warrant discussion - and need protection. If Singer focuses the country's attention on the impact of ill-considered medical research and genetic engineering, then he's a hero, not a villain.

If you're handicapped, it's easy to fear what Singer seems to be advocating. But he argues that what he's proposing is compassion and the importance of a healthy life, which he sees as much of a right as life itself.

This is as complicated and difficult a technological and philosophical debate as there is. But it's exactly the sort of discussion America needs more of, not less, in an era when supercomputing, artificial intelligence and life, and genetic engineering make the issues raised in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" seem simple. Genetic engineering is becoming a regular topic on this website, but not in the information spectrum off-line, where it's almost never mentioned.

Sociologists, historians and technologists argue that technology is never autonomous; it only does what we want it to do. But medical technology is, in fact, out of control, outstripping our ability to consider or comprehend it. We ought to thank Singer for having the brains and the heart to make us face these issues while craven journalists, religious leaders and pols hide their heads in the sand.

If America really were a free country, Singer would be able to talk about his ideas in the open, in a classroom without guards. He'd be able to list his classes in the catalogue along with the other profs. The Net, at least, makes it certain that these controversial memes will at least be considered.

And Gov. Ventura ought to be just as free to challenge the structure and function of organized religion, one of the most powerful institutions in American life and also one of the bloodier influences in modern history.

While the Internet has completely altered the context of free speech - online, people can and do find places to discuss anything -- these discussions take place underground, in a sense, at least for now. They're less welcome in the open, in the central institutions and outlets that collectively help set the country's political and social agenda.

Few major newspapers' op-ed pages would host a free-wheeling discussion of the issues Singer raises. No member of Congress would openly debate them or discuss them in campaigns. Few churches or synagogues would talk about them. No network news organization or newsmagazine would ever question organized religion the way Ventura has done.

In such a timid atmosphere, it's hard to know whether any of these ideas have legitimacy and are worth exploring, or whether some deserve to be roundly rejected. The so-called marketplace of ideas can't function effectively. In a country that talks so much about freedom, there isn't nearly as much as we and our elected leaders pretend.

It's ironic amidst all the commercial and patriotic drum-banging about the Millenium underway, that technology is forcing a country deluded with notions of its own self-righteousness to actually be free, rather than simply make the claim.

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Dying Babies and The Myth of American Freedom

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  • by pb ( 1020 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @08:08PM (#1618276)
    I don't really see where you're going with this one. America is legally a pretty unencumbered, free country. People can believe whatever they want to believe. Whether or not it's popular is a completely different issue.

    Censorship can be bad. Imposing censorship on other people without their knowledge or consent is generally bad. Self-censorship (like slashdot) is also called content-filtering, and it can be very good. I like being able to block ads and spam, turning off extra javascript, and I don't mind spending some time moderating comments because I think it makes slashdot a nicer, more comprehensible, relevant place for everyone.

    Natural selection pretty much took care of babies who were too ill or sickly to survive. However, people tend to take care of them now. If they want to do that, it's their business, their money, and their lives. If they want the right to decide whether a baby who wouldn't normally live should be allowed to, I suppose that's their right, but there would need to be some guidelines to prevent abuse. Genetic screening might help too.

    I wouldn't trust genetic engineering yet until it is well-proven. Why implement a technology when you know you don't understand its ramifications?

    And, finally, do you like posting complicated, controversial articles of dubious relevance on slashdot? You know the kind of response you're going to get. Maybe a little bit more self-censorship might be in order. :)
  • Aww crap, I had a long paragrah and IE ate it. So I'll start over and try again:

    It seems to me that in our country today it is becoming acceptable for everyone to lambast White Male Christians. All other groups have some kind of protected status, but if a White Male Christian does something then it's OK to scream at them about it. It's becoming so that no one can criticise anyone except WMCs. I'd like to know when *I* lost my right to speak out against things I don't believe are right. Since when do I have less of a right to say 'No, that's wrong don't do it.' than anyone else does to say 'Yes, that's a good idea, do it.'?? Our society it moving towards the point where the only thing that is actually WRONG is criticising other people. We are already moving towards this with criminals, absolving them because they are 'genetically predisposed' to violence, calling them victims of society. No one wants to take responsibility for their actions anymore and whenever a WMC speaks up and says that they should everyone flies into a rage. If a WMC speaks out against a subject he is suddenly trying to censor you and is evil. Remember, free speech goes both ways, I have an equal right to tell you I don't like what you are saying as you do to say it.

  • Thank you for writing this article. As much as it's going to be debated as to whether it belongs on Slashdot or not, it makes a lot of points that people don't think about.

    America is on of the freest countries in the world. But in absolute terms we still have a long ways to go - it's full of laws that have no real purpose being there, and there are plenty of people wanting to go away from freedom.

    It's easy to talk about how wonderful this country is if you're a white wealthy straight christian male. Start moving away from this type of person and watch freedoms decrease, both legal freedoms and social freedoms. You're gay? Sorry, you can't marry who you want even though we can't offer one good reason to make it illegal. You're atheist? Heck, you're not even allowed to take public office in some states, not like people would vote for you anyways.

    People should be willing to discuss any idea, no matter how radical. After all, even if the idea itself is bad and useless, it can spawn other discussions and ideas that can be useful.

    I'm hoping you're right, that the net will not only prevent censorship, but that it will help encourage the next generation to be willing to listen and discuss the controvercial ideas, not just reject them out of hand. To eliminate the remaining 'taboo' topics and opinions, such as that religion has bad effects.

    America, land of bigotry, home of censorship. Where freedom is selectively given out to those that can buy it.
  • by RangerElf ( 32760 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:23AM (#1618285) Homepage

    Is it truly freedom, when you expect to be (at least) socially blasted for expressing controversial ideas? I don't care about the legal structure, but about society. Sure, legally they can't touch you, but you become ostracized by your peers. Is that the mark of a free and educated society?

    What makes freedom is education, the knowledge that you should not be attacked for proffering a thought-out opinion, requesting consideration, or at the least discussion. At the same time, one can not inflict one's prejudices upon others.

    Why should Jon NOT post his "complicated, controversial articles" on slashdot? I happen to like his articles; I've always considered slashdot to be the place for people who like to read thought-provoking news and articles, not a techo-sheeple palace.

    It's one thing to know many things, and it's another entirely to actually think.

  • by z1lch ( 35931 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:24AM (#1618286) Homepage
    Parents already can avoid bringing children with certain serious diseases into the world through prenatal testing. Do they also, as Singer suggests, have the moral right to withdraw life support, or even approve lethal injections?

    Yes. Absolutely. Just as a woman has the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Just as any person should be able to make a decision/carry out the wishes of an individual's euthenasia. eg. cases of terminal illness. These are huge ethical decisions but should be owned by the people whose lives they most directly effect.

    Ultimately the world suffers from chronic overpopulation/suffering and it aint going to go away in a hurry. As society becomes increasingly competitive, humans may have virtually thrown the key out the window on natural selection but artificially we still have a ethical responsibility to our race and the planet not to further weaken the gene pool. At least not to experience guilt and blackmail from society for making a life changing decision. Survival of the fittest is still relevant in a synthetic kingdom.

  • Mr. Katz, what if you'd been the one born like that? Would you be so quick to praise the murder of newborns? Who is to say that this person can't go on to lead a productive life? That medical technology you claim is "outstripping" us can make the persons life easier to live, and be less of a burden on us. God forbid we should actually show some compassion for our fellow man.
    Stick to reporting tech issues and leave morality to others.

    Compassion is over rated. If you KNOW that some kid is going to have the mental powers of a 3 year old for their entire life, then what is the purpose of allowing them to mature physically? They perform no useful function, they are simply a resource drain. It would be kinder to them and their parents to never let them be born.

  • "If they want to do that, it's their business, their money, and their lives. If they want the right to decide whether a baby who wouldn't normally live should be allowed to, I suppose that's their right, but there would need to be some guidelines to prevent abuse."

    Well, certain people in this country DON'T suppose it is anybody's right to decide so. In fact, they take it as THEIR right and responsibility to ruin people lives, if not end them. And there IS a chilling relation between these people and organized religion.

    We can decide here and now what is ethically ok, but out in America people are being crucified for being gay or shredded by pipe bombs because somebody's god supposedly doesn't like them. That's far from "free".
  • by noeld ( 43600 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:27AM (#1618296) Homepage
    Jonkatz says

    The wanton use of terms like "murder" and "genocide" make that impossible, and that means we aren't free either.

    Singer is no monster, and the notion that he's an advocate of mass murder seems outrageously simple-minded and hysterical, a club to shut him up rather than a way to support or refute his ideas.

    So Jon you argue that my using of my free speech to call Singer a monster is hysterical and reduces your liberties while your opinion that he is not a monster is worthy and makes us more free?

    This is an example of using a double standard to try and win an debate. You overlook the possibility that to some of us the idea of killing children is monstrous and evil and anyone that advocates this is an evil monster.

    I believe that the entire argument you make about freedoms is a smokescreen to try and reduce my freedom to speak by twisted emotional blackmail.


    Check out the Lance Armstrong Foundation []

  • Can I get an AMEN? :) Seriously, I agree completely. The irony is almost sickening - I am considered a bigot and "close minded" due to my classic stance on morality, and all I hear is the liberal left SCREAMING for tolerance. Yet do they tolerate my views? Nooooo...

    Here's something to chew on - if you don't *disagree* with a position, you are not *tolerating* it - you *accept* it. In order to "tolerate" something, you must fundamentally disagree with the issue at hand.

    Isn't it ironic, don't you think? :)
  • Disagree less agressive!

    That is really the isue here I think.
    People aren't that good at agreeing with each other, that's a fact of life. What bothers me is the truly agressive way in wich some people disagree with each other.
    Threatening to kill people or actually killing people has become just another way of telling someone you don't agree with him/her.

    Humanity has to keep on talking about every issue that bothers us and killing the debate wether through censorship or through murder does not really help us in any way.
  • Um, ok. I don't really follow you on this one. Let's see if I can handle this... America is not free because a lot of people dislike Peter Singer's ideas and say so? That's not censorship. Freedom of speech doesn't guarantee you the right to have your views respected -- it just guarantees you the right to express them.

    Speaking of challenging assumptions, who says free speech is really such a great thing? After all, the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution stems directly from the ideas of John Locke. Locke had an agenda in his ideas -- he aimed to weaken religion. By preaching tolerance for all religions, he removed religion from the forefront of every day life, and relegated it to something that's part of one's private life.

    So really, the First Amendment is just a conspiracy designed by heathens to eliminate God's influence for the world -- of course, it sounds like you're all for that. There. If that doesn't get me moderated back into last week, I don't know what will. Oh, but wait, it shouldn't. I'm challenging popular assumptions, and my ideas should be heard by everyone. While we're at it, I think they should be subsidized with tax money. Oh well. Perhaps if I attach some elephant dung to this post...

  • I didnt read the hole article so i dont know if this was included. I not even sure if this is true, but im quite sure that being a nazi is forbidden in the USA. Or atleast nazi organistations are forbidden. In Sweden nazi are ofter forbidden to say what they think in public. That sucks. PS. I didnt read the hole article, i am terribly uninformed and i am stupid. All this may be totaly wrong. But hey, second post. No wait. D'oh. In 5 minuits five people posted comments. DS.

    Wrong, the Ku Klux Klan is a Natzi organization and is permitted, though there is a limit on what type of expression they are allowed, i.e. it's not OK to burn a cross on someones yard or threaten them (Unless you live in Alabama). So yes, we do allow Nazi organizations in the US.

  • Salman Rushdie got a fatwa for writing his book Satanic Verses. We all, US included, condemned the fatwa and tried to get Iran to change their minds. "This would never happen in the free world", we think. But wait, it happens!

    There's a lot of doctors living under a religious fatwa in US. You just have to do legal abortions and you may loose your head to religious fundamentalists. Fundamentalists, kill while preaching: "You shall not kill."

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:34AM (#1618315) Homepage Journal
    And that includes people's responses. If you can't censor one side, you can't censor the other, either. Freedom is two-edged, which is precicely why dictators decry it.

    The artwork fiasco, and the New York mayor's response are a case in point. Yes, the art gallery should have the right to show what it likes. On the flip side, the mayor should have the right to say what goes on on property he's responsible for. You can't have one-sided freedom. It's an all or nothing deal. You cannot expect only the side you cheer for to have the right to speak up.

    The mayor has not once said the museum of art can't show what it likes, he's only said it can't show this material on Government property, with Government money. Is that really censorship, when nobody is being stopped? All that's happening is that the mayor has set boundaries - something every person does every day, because it is both healthy and necessary.

    John Katz' choice of a title has shock-value - something you expect from "The National Enquirer" or "The Sun" (the UK newspaper). What it doesn't have is relevence to the article. There's nothing about babies, dying or otherwise, in the story, either literally or figuratively.

    There IS freedom of speech in the USA, but don't expect others not to use it, too, when you say something they don't like. John Katz' arguments are just as much an attempt to censor and muzzle others as they are over censorship of things he doesn't like. So what if this faceless "they" have more power than he does? It's the attitude which matters, and what you do with it.

    I do not agree with censorship, deliberate distortion of facts to deceive or manipulate, or any other attempt to pervert reality. I DON'T differentiate between the alleged agressors and the alleged victims. If something is a definite "wrong", then who does it should not matter. As soon as it does, you have a dictatorship, with one side dictating the reality of the other. Plain and simple.

    Then, there are other aspects to this. This is not a plain and simple situation. It never is. Take the case of the museum of art, again. That pig that was cut in half - a life was sacrificed for people's viewing pleasure. Is this any better than badger baiting, hare coursing or fox hunting? Yet these are either banned or under review, in many countries, as cruel and barbaric. Not surprising, really. It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that degrading the value and significance of life is, at best, seriously sick and diseased.

    Yet we are to believe that a mayor, who has obligations by law, is being censorus by drawing attention to the fact that he's not going to excuse an exhibit which may be illegal under State and national law. I'm not saying he's "right" - I am wary of the concepts of "right" and "wrong", they are misused so much - but I know damn well that if John Katz ever became President, we'd know censorship like we've never had before.

  • So Jon you argue that my using of my free speech to call Singer a monster is hysterical and reduces your liberties while your opinion that he is not a monster is worthy and makes us more free?

    This is an example of using a double standard to try and win an debate. You overlook the possibility that to some of us the idea of killing children is monstrous and evil and anyone that advocates this is an evil monster.

    I believe that the entire argument you make about freedoms is a smokescreen to try and reduce my freedom to speak by twisted emotional blackmail.

    No, his point is that large groups of people are themselves using emotional blackmail to even eliminate discussion of his idea. Instead of trying to refute it, all they're doing is labeling him a monster, murdered, advocate of genocide. And trying to make anyone else not even consider discussing his idea for fear of being labeled the same way.

    There's an enormous difference between bringing up an idea for discussion, and implementing it. Treating him like such a horrible person and making him fear for his life for suggesting an idea is censorship - social censorship. Especially when we know he really can't go out an implement it, even a little bit.

    Nobody's telling you that you're not allowed to be a hysterical emotional reactionary. Just that it does more harm than good.
  • it might be their life, but its not their money and so its not their business. when their critically ill retarded handicapped genetically deficient baby ends up in the neonatal ICU for a couple weeks, who's footing the bill? people who pay for health insurance and don't use it. this my money and your money that is "saving" these babies.
  • I've been reading /. for several months and I've noticed an overwhelming sentiment in the community that regards John Katz as an ineffectual, boring hack of a writer who has perhaps overstayed his fifteen minutes of fame. I'm not overly familiar with Katz' writings outside of the pieces presented here on /. so I had nothing to measure him against. I wasn't quite sure how he gained the enmity of the majority of the community.

    I now understand.

    Katz attemtps to gauge America's "freedom" based on three controversial people and the debate that ensued from their controversial actions. He clumsily attempts to equate "blockheaded" debate as infringements upon freedom. I guess in Katz' world we are all free to speak our minds in a utopian vacuum where we sit and either nod or shake our heads in agreement or disagreement. I'd like to be the first to welcome Katz to the real world. Whether America is freer than any other countries is perhaps debatable. If we are to equate freedom with civil debate, then I question whether anyone is truly free.

    This commentary from Katz has the feel of a being hastily slapped together and culled from several Junior High School term papers laying around somewhere in Katz' attic. If Katz has free rein to peddle essays of dubious quality he will only furthern harden the community against him.
  • Yes, well the reason may be because there is good cause to believe when lots of WMC group up and become vocal over things, people get killed, hurt, unfairly imprisoned, cheated, stolen from, etc. It's YOUR burden to separate yourself from fellow WMCs who believe in and promote heinous, dangerous, unethical, and illegal activity. As a matter of fact, SAY and SPEAK all you want. Just stay the hell away from our civil liberties. Remember, just because you don't LIKE something, doesn't mean there has to be legislation in your favor to force everybody else your way.

    Which also means that there shouldn't be legislation to force anyone any other way. I've never seen a group of WMCs become violent, anywhere. I've seen a lot of hate groups, anti-christian, anti-black, anti-jew, anti-almost anything become violent. But I have yet to see a group of christians attempting to lynch a scientist. Admittedly there were a lot of frightened paranoid christians who DID kill a lot of scientists in one way or another over the last few hundred years. But there have also been plenty of OTHER groups killing scientists for whatever reason. The foibles of Christian society are not unique to it.

  • see, this is somethign that bugs me about those religious people who are always trying to get people to do what their god likes. they always say "I have a right to express my views too", and they do, under the first amendment. what they don't have the right to do is hold me hostage with their god's laws; disagreeing with abortion or euthanasia is one thing, actually trying to make it impossible for me to kill my baby is anyther thing entirely.
  • by nevets ( 39138 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:44AM (#1618342) Homepage Journal
    Your right to denounce Singer is perfectly fine.

    The problem is arises when Singer needs guards to speak his mind. The problem I see, is that people are afraid to speak about things that upset them. I'm no different from anyone else. I get upset when someone states something that offends me, but instead of censoring the offending remarks, I argue against them. I try to do an intellectual debate to denounce the offending comments. People have a tendency to flame or cast insults or even worse, violence against individuals instead of pointing out the problems with there discussion.

    The best way to understand things is to listen, even if it is something you dislike.

    Sometimes censorship may be a Good Thing(tm). If you can argue that it is. I would argue that posting the instructions on making bombs on the internet is dangerous, and make a case for censorship of it. Not for opinions in general, but to show a direct consequence of the problems caused by the publishing of that content.

    Steven Rostedt
  • by Anonymous Coward
    though i found that this story a bit drawn out the ideas talked about were very true. those of you who don't understand what katz is talking about need to really read the story. we are all censored even though we live in a free country. are we censored by the government? sure. but more so by the people around us. dont believe in the morals everyone else does. great for you. youll be shunned though. look at jesse ventura(sp?). someone finally had the courage enough to speak out about his views on religion. being an athiest i know that many are grateful someone finally stood up and said this. but look what happens. the majority of the country is religous and he is thus shunned for his views. what ever happened to the seperation of church and state.

    if you didnt understand the article or what he was saying take a step back. try dropping all the prejudices and ideas that have been embedded in your brain and really take in what he is saying. killing deformed and retarded babies? it may not sound good but it is an idea that people should talk about. after hitting the 6 billion point we need to look at the way we are reproducing because soon enough there won't be enough room for all of us. if you really want to understand and dont see the ideals embedded in your brain maybe you should read ishmael [] by daniel quinn.

    another good place to go and read that deals with over population and gets lots of the shunning i talked about visit the voluntary human extinction movement [].

    want to write me about this post? click here [mailto].

  • yes? and?

    survival of the fittest, baby. technology isnt supposed to solve all our problems, its supposed to be a tool for people to use. if some people are too poor to afford it, that shouldn't be our primary concern.

    I think it's kind of amusing how everyone wants to do away with floppy drives and ISA busses and other dead-end technology in the name of faster forward progress, but we're always worried about making sure the lower class is properly worried about. this is natural selection at work; don't let your conscience get in the way.

    con-science = against science. (?)
  • by DrFalkyn ( 102068 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:49AM (#1618353)

    The Brooklyn Museum of Art faces the loss of a third of its annual budget, even eviction, because the mayor of New York City finds a painting in an exhibit offensive.

    Which he is in he perfectly legal right to do so as Mayor of NY. Just because they have the right to say whatever they want doesn't mean we should be forced to fund them!

    Katz, your argument works both ways. Those who called for the removal of Singer, Ventura, and Buchanan had just as much right to free speech. In the case of witholding funding, Singer doesn't have any 'right' to be a professor of Bioethics at Princeton, and Princeton has eveery right to dismiss him if they believe his values are directly opposed to the mission of the university.

    Censorship is a government issue, not a social one. You have the right to free speech within certain bounds. You don't have the right to commit treason and claim you are protected under the first amendment. You can't threaten the president's life. You can't operate a radio station without a permit from the FCC. Yes, I'll probably get flamed for this one but I think all these limits on free speech are reasonable.

    If there was absolute freedom, there would be chaos - Aristotle

  • by netwiz ( 33291 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:50AM (#1618356) Homepage
    Is intellectual laziness on the part of the US citizenry (and the human race in general). I spoke with one of my friends at length regarding the gun issues facing our country and world. He constructed a fascinating argument using personal responsibility as the reason why guns should be legal and unencombered. Managed to use the 1920s prohibition as an example. When I brought up the fact that the _exact_same_argument_ (personal responsibility) can be used to promote the legalization of drugs (he did use prohibition as an example), his response was, "No not really. Drugs are bad."


    How did this happen? It just amazes me that people are so often blind to flaws in their logic, just because it would force them to change their mind. Reminds me of something the fortune file served up the other day:

    "The very powerful and very stupid have something in common. Instead of changing their mind to fit the facts, they try to change the facts to fit their mind. It can get pretty nasty when you're one of the facts that needs changing."

    I forget who said this. Oh, yah, it was Dr. Who.
  • American society has NEVER been a place where it has been acceptible to deviate too far from the norm. One might argue that this is why those old white guys in the 1700s felt comfortable releaseing a large portion of control over to the masses; they knew that they wouldn't let the crazies dominate.

    Katz: What do you expect? When people hear an idea that they are passionately opposed to, they will try to SHOOT IT DOWN. This is typical of debate.

    People who make their living on controversy, whether you call them pundits or trolls, should not be surprised when there is a negative backlash to their ideas. The more controversial the idea, the more flamed that person is likely to get. This is a tradition of the internet, and is a controlling influence on those who would like to bombard us with their opinions, no matter how insane they might be.

    I personally consider the idea of killing off disabled children to fall into the Whacko category, along with those folks who try to tell me that the holocaust didn't happen, the moon mission was a fake, and that the Earth is really flat. People who push these kinds of ideas in front of me tend to get pushed right back. The more I care about an issue, the harder I will push. Surprise!

    When do we get to have an article saying how it would be better if we killed all kids at birth who might grow up to be lawyers? I could get behind that one :-)
  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:51AM (#1618358)
    As I write this, I see five comments of six suggesting Katz shut up, or not write the article.

    This demonstrates exactly what he is talking about. As long as people can't speak without the fear of offending others, we aren't truly free. Not that Katz is going to be inhibited by the abuse he gets, but a more timid person with ideas as or more worthwhile might be.

    When someone suggests euthanasia in cases where conciousness isn't present or survival is not possible he is reviled. Maybe the idea is wrong, but a free society attacks the idea, not the person behind it.

    If I were to suggest revolution in my country, and it happened, innocent people would die. How is this any different from the euthanasia controversy? Is suggesting revolution worthy of being named a mass murderer then? And why aren't the founding fathers reviled?

    Examining an idea never hurts. It may be wrong, but in the process of honestly determining that for yourself that you can learn important things.

    Let Katz write. Filter him, or turn your eyes if you think it worthless. You at worst harm yourself that way. Inhibiting free discussion harms everyone else's right to be exposed to ideas they may find more valuable than you.
  • What Jon is saying is that People are instantateous calling Singer a "a monster" while people are not paying attention to the flip side of the coin. I think singer's idea is sick and my morals wouldn't let me accept it. But the idea is fine and dandy. I wouldn't call Singer a monster any more then calling you a close-minded idiot. ;)

    You are proving Jon's statement by saying 'thats a stupid idea. He shouldn't say stuff like that' What Jon is saying is that Singer, You, Your next door neighbor, and everyone else can say your opinions. Unfortunately since a LOT of people are stuck in the mindframe 'I am right and everyone who disagrees should be shot' mindframe Singer, myself, and anyone else who has a diffrent way of looking at things, can't go expressing our ideas that aren't "social acceptable".

    In other words people should just grow up.

  • Yes, America is a country that is well-known for its persecution of Christians.

    Here are some shocking examples:

    Life In Our Anti-Christian America

    Look. Many "White Male Christians" have made it their life's work to "lambast" other groups. If it's not calling Muslims the "s pawn of Satan" or advocating killing homosexuals because the book of Leviticus says they should be put to death, it's blasting professional women because they have high-paying corporate jobs instead of a non-paying role as a submissive housewife.

    I'm sorry if it offends you when people say that these views are completely full of shit.

    Ummm... those views ARE full of shit, which is why you won't find many people under *80* who still follow them. I agree, some WMCs have repeatedly flamed Muslims for their beliefs. However that is free speech, it's ok. Muslims have flamed christians (Sometimes literally flamed) and THAT is ok as well. What is NOT ok is when everyone objects to the first and tells the WMC he is evil, but not the second. Try being a bit more open minded, go actually talk to some christians... Hopefully you won't run into the stupid ones, they are out there...

  • by AngryMob ( 89923 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @05:57AM (#1618371)
    Dear noeld,

    I respond to you to say that you have completely understood the point of free speech. You suggest that by denying your right to lambast and shut down Singer, JonKatz is denying free speech. Perhaps in the literal sense this is true. But a qualifier is necessary here, perhaps one that wasn't clear to you.

    Free speech is supposed to advance the expression of ideas. John Stuart Mill presented the thesis that in an ideal society, ANY idea can be aired without fear of being stifled. That is, if you have an objection to an idea, you do not shut it down purely because you find it anathema. This is tantamount to assuming your infallibility, and that is perhaps the greatest mistake anyone can make.

    There is, of course, perfect justification for this. After all, if you find Singer offensive, so what? Is the expression of his offensive idea going to somehow sour the world? Hardly. Why do you find it so galling that someone might have a thought contrary to yours? After all, if your idea is the truth, then how can it suffer when held up against a false idea?

    The actual answer, I believe, is that people do NOT know the truth. They hold a comfortable stance because they can understand it and deal with it, but challenges to this stance therefore become vexing, uncomfortable - and thus, you reason, wrong. You are unwilling to change, even though you are not necessarily right. This is flat out wrong. This is dogmatism at its worst.

    Why do people poke fun at the Catholic Church for its calls for censorship? Because it's inherently ridiculous for any body claiming to know the truth to fear challenges to it. Can you explain for us, Mr. noeld, why you don't want Singer to say what he says? Why do you fear an idea?

  • It seems to me that most of these issues surrounding euthanizing disabled newborns always goes something like this. They point out that it is showing compassion to euthanize disabled newborns since they wouldn't have much of a life. After that, this compassion is never mentioned again and economic issues, how it affects the rest of the family, how it affects the parents, etc. Those are all points to look at, but the so-called compassion stops their. I have a real problem with that. A newborn is a life, a person that trusts you to take care of them. These arguments all revolve around making the parents' life easier by euthanizing the newborn. It is really the newborn that is being affected. If one of your children becomes disabled at age 31 in a car accident or something and you and your spouse have to start taking care of him again, the thought of euthanizing your 31 year old never comes to mind, though there is little difference in the situation. There is one element that is different-you have grown attached to your son or daughter and want to always love and take care of them. Every parent wants a perfectly healthy baby, but it doesn't always happen. So you just kill it until you get what you want? When you and your spouse make a baby, you must take responsibility for the child you create. I don't believe any of this really is about being compassionate towards the disabled newborn, but is more about making the euthanization of disabled newborns socially justified. The people creating these arguments focus very little on the person in the group that is the most affected, the disabled newborn. To lose life is to lose the ability to change the lives of the ones you love for the good-to help them when they need you. When a disabled newborn is euthanized, it is the most affected of anyone because it loses that ability. You can never compare the value of life to economic, emotional, or physical hardships. If we ever allow those to come up equal or greater on the scales compared to life, we will be in serious trouble as a society. We must all grow up and be responsible for what we create, for our actions, and not look for an easy way out. I guess we are all a generation of children-the "me" generation. Well, that is my .02.
  • "The McCaughey family in Iowa was showered with gifts, from diapers to a new home, for their septuplets."

    With freedom comes an often over-looked secondary aspect. That of responsibility.

    Yes, you have the freedom to have 18 children, however, if you excercise said freedom, you have the responsibility of caring for them properly.

    Of course, with an estimated 6 billion people in the world, I begin to question the "freedom" of being able to procreate ourselves into extinction. Primarily since I find that the responsibility that comes with raising a child includes doing what you can to make their life better. Having to fight 17 siblings for everything, including your parents' love.....

    This isn't an America-centric world, no matter what they're teaching you in high school or in Hollywood's ultra patriotic propaganda. There's the rest of the world to consider, and you can't use the excuse "well, in the third world they're having 12 children each" - infant mortality means few of these kids live to puberty.

    The US has twisted the meanings of Right and Freedom. Child raising, welfare, guns, abortion, capital punishment, broken legal system.

    So this is enlightened society.

  • The KKK is not a Nazi organization. I would imagine that members of the KKK are some of the most anti-socialist people you could ever meet. Both, however, are hate groups. In the US, both groups have the right to hold meetings, demonstrate on public property, and do pretty much anything any other group is allowed to do. No group is legally allowed to threaten people or violate property rights, it is not just the KKK or the Nazi party. It is perfectly fine for the KKK to burn a cross on their own property or for the Nazi party to publish anti-Semetic propaganda.

    Personally, I believe that this is what makes our country great. Jon Katz may like to believe that he is full of great insights, but the truth is a great deal of what he is talking about is not censorship. (Art in NY, see one of the other posts for a good explanation) It is not censorship if I do not let you talk about a topic in media which I fund, it is censorship when I don't let you say it in media that you fund. This is the key difference, subtle though it may be. If Princeton were to fire Singer, that would not be censorship, just good sense. They need money more than they need his reputation and "expertise". If Princeton starts suing me because I am talking about the topic and the government allows it, that is censorship.
    Gregory J. Barlow
    fight bloat. use blackbox [].

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @06:02AM (#1618382)
    You know, it's interesting. This is going to get me in a lot of trouble on Slashdot, I already know that. But I've noticed a pattern. First, we have pro-choicers saying that fetuses aren't human (whether or not you believe that isn't the point of this post. They might be or might not be; anyone who says they can prove one way or the other is either lying or deluded in one manner or another). Now, we have a college professor (and a new movement that seems to be growing, if slowly) saying that newborns aren't human. What's next, that small children aren't human? Then adolescents? I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

    I respect the pro-choice movement, though I don't follow it. My main problem with it isn't even abortion itself. My problem is this: it denies humanity to a group (which might or might not be human; current technologies don't seem to be able to prove one way or the other), but then it never defines where or when (or, for that matter, why) humanity begins. There are people who would push that age further and further forward, to justify killing for just about any reason. I see this professor as the first example of that; to kill a human being for selfish reasons, justifying it by saying "but it wasn't really human." There are risks involved in having a child, and if you don't think you can handle the possibilities then you shouldn't be putting yourself in a situation where those risks could come back to bite you.

    To kill another being without that being's consent is generally considered a major taboo in just about any culture (sometimes even killing with that person's consent, such as euthanasia, is considered taboo). There's a very good reason for it, though: murder, if allowed, sets a dangerous precedent whereby a person could justify killing anyone he doesn't like. A newborn certainly can't consent to being killed, of course (at least not in any way we can currently understand). That doesn't mean we should try to guess. Ask any disabled person if they've suffered so much as a direct result of their disability that they want to die; I'll guarantee you that nearly all of them will say no. In other words, in most of these euthanasia cases, you would not be doing the child any mercy at all; you would simply be killing a kid because the parents don't want to live up to their newfound responsibilities.

    A free culture is not an anarchistic one. It doesn't mean you can do whatever you want; one must always consider others ("the right to swing my fist ends where the next man's nose begins"). Giuliani was out of line with the art exhibit; that's true. He found the exhibit offensive, but that was no fault of the artist or museum. He has no right to deny others the right to see it, whether by overtly ordering the removal of the art exhibit or by using sneaky tricks like cutting public funds. Jesse Ventura wasn't out of line with his comment about religion, but he could certainly have been more tactful (or at least explained why he believed as he did, rather than simply blurted it out). Making an intelligent argument, which implies backing up your statements ("Religion is for the weak-willed and needy, and this is why..."), is within anyone's rights; simple insults ("Religion is for weak-willed and needy people") are not.

    But enough of this, or else I'll really go into rant mode. If you don't agree, that's fine; if you want to flame, do it over e-mail.
  • by Wah ( 30840 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @06:03AM (#1618387) Homepage Journal
    Thanks for the article Jon, this one doesn't suck.

    I'm not sure how long it will take for society as a whole to realize that we have already created a monster we can't control. A monster that spits out information to whoever happens to click on it. Many more attempts will be made to cage it as powerful people learn to fear an educated (and often miseducated) populace. Rationalizing with such cliches as "ignorance is bliss".

    I watched A&E's top 100 people of the millenium the last couple nights. They picked the same #1 as a couple other lists I have seen, Johann Guttenberg (no relation to Steve), and for the same reason. More available information can have HUGE impacts on society as a whole. I couldn't help but laugh to think of the difference in power of a machine that can make paper and ink copies of information, and one that translates magnetic images, over electric line, through an electron gun, lighting up rare earth elements, with information from anywhere in the world. That's pretty impressive.

    I love Jesse Ventura. I've been saying this for a while now and not much has changed. You might not agree with his politics and his personal views. But boy does he have balls when expressing them. He'll say stuff that others are scared to, and because he isn't embarassed or guilty about it, he's gained my respect. His potential as a polititian is still debatable, but he does draw attention and focus which is a very political type thing to do.

    As far as the Singer stuff goes. When we start doing this, the first person I'm going after is Stephen Hawking. It's obvious from his physical inadequacies that he can offer absolutely no value to society and should therefore be removed for the good of the whole. Dammit people, different does not mean worse, it does not mean less, it means different.

    ..and finally..

    The United States is using medical and other technologies that may result in genetic selection to remove physical, even psychological problems like alcoholism that are increasingly being linked to heredity (see Tuesday's story on Slashdot on gentically engineered kids).

    If we start doing gene therapy for alcoholism (a horrible example, Katz) we are truly the laziest, most worthless society to ever have existed. Hey look, i've created a huge problem for myself, anybody got a Quick Fix(tm). Quick Fixes lead to nuclear weapons.

    And just because it's on-topic...

    I very highly recommend the film "American Beauty". Rarely do films shoot straight for the heart of what it is to be American (if you believe in TV commercials that is). A very well done picture that you won't soon forget.

    (*gets off soapbox, takes of rant hat, and gets back to work*)
  • There is an old USENET saying that newsgroup discussion threads end when the first reference to Hitler or Nazis is used, because after that people's brains turn off.

    I think this is where Katz is coming from. People, especially those with money and power and who benefit from the status quo, always seek to demonize their opposition, because then people stop thinking. So the first thing they do is call someone a "monster", a "Hitler", a "Nazi", a "baby-killer", or whatever pushes the emotional hot buttons of their supporters. The Christian establishment definitely has money and power and benefits from the status quo.

    And nothing starts the demonization chorus like questioning religious tenets as Singer did.

    The abolition of child-killing was one of the main tenets of the early Christians, and was one of the major reasons for Christianity's success in the old Roman Empire. It went against the old Romans, who routinely killed their own children for any reason they deemed fit. So this issue strikes and the very heart of Christian belief. So it naturally cannot even be discussed.

    Also furthermore, why is it that Juliani can say that he doesn't want tax dollars going to fund obscene art, but I can't say that I don't want my tax dollars used to support (in the form of tax dedectible contributions) religious proselyzation?

  • The ways Slashdot censors:

    1. News feed (story recommendations) are only seen by the admins.

    2. comments rated below "-1" are censored [Note that this requires only two or three quick and biased moderators, and then no one can see it (i don't think the other moderators do either, but i've never moderated, so i don't know)]

    3. (this is more subtle) does not store copies of the articles we link to. A lot of times servers delete or hide the stories, after a time period, and, though the slashdot blurb is available, the actual article has been censored (by them AND us)

    1. At least, the emails should be viewable by everyone (another web page). At best, moderators should be able to rate-up and down stories, and when they get a high enough rating, they would appear on the homepage.

    2. There should be a "-infinity" threshold.

    3. I don't know about the legal stuff involved, but google caches the pages it hits. I don't see why we can't do the same.

    Slashdot is one of the most uncensored news sources I know of. Why not make it closer to perfect?


  • Another comment on this, I read through the 'Life in Our Anti-Chiristian America' compilation and it struck me that atheists apparently don't understand why christians try to convert them. Christians believe that when someone dies unsaved they go to hell and burn in pain for eternity. We don't like the idea that others might be subjected to this, so we are trying to help as many people as we can. Would you be this offended if I were trying to stop you from running full speed off of a cliff, just because you didn't know it was there?

  • Why implement a technology when you know you don't understand its ramifications?

    Be careful. Most people do not understand Web technology. Should we collect all the computers and destroy them (or lock them away) until we Understand the technology to its fullest extent?

    Freedom and Censorship are both slippery slopes - there is a price to be paid for both. But do not confuse them with progress - which happens with or without them. It is and always will be.

    As a society, we must debate the issues of our inventions so that they will find their proper place. If we do not debate (censorship) then these items will still find a place although it may not be the best possible answer for that invention. This carries over to a free market society in which debate carries over to the wallet which in turn decides the fate of the invention.

    Let the arguments continue...

    Keep us thinking Katz!

  • We *are* free. But the noise to signal ratio for almost all complex social issues is awfully high. And always will be. Even the internet doesn't truly solve this problem. And can't. If a person does not wish to receive unbiased or truthful news enough to work for it, nothing on earth can force him/her to listen. He or she will gravitate to whatever makes them happy.

    The mainstream media presents someone like Peter Singer as a heartless bastard because god forbid someone in it's highly generic often stupid audience might misunderstand a truly sensitive article on the subject and think that the WashingtonPost or whatever your favorite paper is thinks "baby killing" is ok.

    Now the Internet "new media" doesn't care if some moron thinks it just said baby killing is ok, because the person running the site JUST MIGHT REALLY THINK THAT. Internet sites are about specificity of interest. Instead of attempting to apeal to a large bland audience, the sites vie with eachother for various tight audiences. And there's a danger here,too.

    On the internet, we listen to ourselves too much. We're free not just from news coverage we percieve as moronic, but from hearing opinions we don't agree with stated in a well thought out way. We're free to stick our heads in the sand as much as we like -- OR alternatively to be very well informed indeed. The internet gave us some control, but we can still choose poorly.


  • see, this is somethign that bugs me about those religious people who are always trying to get people to do what their god likes. they always say "I have a right to express my views too", and they do, under the first amendment. what they don't have the right to do is hold me hostage with their god's laws; disagreeing with abortion or euthanasia is one thing, actually trying to make it impossible for me to kill my baby is anyther thing entirely.

    I agree that trying to pass laws preventing people from doing things can sometimes be wrong. But there are plenty of people who want to make it illegal for christians to picket outside of Abortion clinics and hand out pamphlets to pregnant women who visit them. Also, if Abortion or Euthanasia is found to be the same as outright Murder, then it SHOULD be illegal. Otherwise, why would we object to someone killing random people?

  • by jht ( 5006 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @06:13AM (#1618417) Homepage Journal
    ...but freedom entails the right for people to be stupid, closed-minded, and sheep-like. In other words, a person is, in fact, free to say or think what they want, but they aren't therefore protected by force from the consequences of their words and thoughts.

    That may be foolish, and it may be wrong, but it's not censorship. It's society.

    I, for one, don't think taxpayer money should pay for any art, regardless of content. Im I a censor? No. I'm not interested in viewpoints or content. I simply don't think government should subsidize any businesses. But what about the Internet, you ask? Wasn't that subsidized?

    Well, the Internet was a defense research project. The bacic technology was invented under defense auspices. But it didn't become the pervasive entity it is today until it was turned over to the private sector.

    Just remember, freedom includes a nearly unlimited right to foolishness.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • It is a simple fact that artists are not compensated appropriately for their work. Public funding *IS* needed to support most forms of art. Even acceptable, highly-popular art like classical music needs public funding. So, pulling that funding is most definitely a form of censorship.

    Baloney. Non-support is not censorship.

    This "art" is defended as being political or at least provocative speech. Free Speech advocates like to say that that the First Amendment to the American Constitution places a "wall of separation" between the church and the state and thus, the state is not allowed to forward religious speech in any way. It seems ironic that the same First Amendment is used to justify anti-religious speech. Anti-religious speech is just religious speech from an opposing religion, in one way to look at it. In fairness, shouldn't New York City now be supporting Catholic clergy to give the opposing view?

    As to it being "a simple fact that artists are not compensated appropriately for their work", I disagree. Compensation for work is the function of the marketplace. If you like this art, then you should support it. Perhaps I would approve of some Education money being spent in the support of Art, Education being a function of our government, but any other support should come from the people who enjoy it.

    Whatever happened to the enhanced perspective gained by an artist being under appreciated? Van Gogh is an excellent example of someone who was unappreciated in his time. Would his art have been better had he been fat and happy? I doubt it. In fact, it's often the case that State supported art is not the best that every age has to offer. So, for example, Salieri gets State support and Mozart does not.

    I challenge the belief that "highly-popular" art like classical music "needs" public funding. If it were indeed "highly-popular" then public funding wouldn't be required. Both this display in Brooklyn and classical music are widely acclaimed by upper-middle class people who use their considerable political influence to get the State to pay for it. These are particularly eggregious examples of the poor paying for the upper class' entertainment through their taxes.

  • Any media which presents an opposing view with any more realism or tact than Jerry Springer is boycotted and thus silenced. In my community the screaming hordes of Christians have banded together to ban books from the school libraries. Do they advocate genocide, popularize Hitler or are they hard core porn? No, they're books that try to help students understand that gay persons have a right to live and a right to happiness. Whether or not those people agree with the philosophy or not, if they expect the freedom to express their views they should tolerate the same freedoms in others. Rather than voicing opinions they've got a mob mentality and the numbers to allow them to supress opposing views. That's not exercising free speech, thats NAZIism.

    I agree, people doing this sort of thing need to re-read the bible and pay closer attention to that 'love your neighbor' part, and maybe some of those 'love, understanding, and compassion' paragraphs. It's OK to try to logically convince someone to change their ways, even to attempt to appeal to them emotionally, but to FORCE them to stop doing something is bad. However, your scenario is still perfectly legitimate, they have the right to express a desire that those books not be allowed. The school is in no way required to adhere to that.

  • >Just as any person should be able to make a >decision/carry out the wishes of an individual's >euthenasia. eg. cases of terminal illness. These >are huge ethical decisions but should be owned by >the people whose lives they most directly effect.
    But clearly it MOST directly affects the life of the newborn, who has no say at all in the decision! If parents have some right to decide that it's right for their infant to be euthanized, and we grant them that right based on the fact that the child can not yet make its own decisions, what, then do we do with a four-year-old? Clearly he/she is too young to decide what to do with his/her life. So can a parent euthanize a bratty toddler to "save the world some suffering"?
  • The Brooklyn Museum of Art faces the loss of a third of its annual budget, even eviction, because the mayor of New York City finds a painting in an exhibit offensive.

    Serves them right if they're accepting public funding (How does the mayor control their funding: directly, or indirectly via the weight of his opinions?) -- it seems natural if the "public" funds them, the "public" gets to call the shots, as it were, via their elected representative.

    If anything that's an argument against accepting public funds -- you lose your autonomy.

    There's a self-correcting mechanism to things that are widely unpopular, though, that does not require any "censorship from above" to "correct": unpopular opinions have, with them, a hidden cost of defense against those who would use force to silence them. It isn't a question of whether use of such force is right -- it just boils down to the statistical chance of someone being pissed off enough about what you say, to act against you.

    For example, should I have a right to say (warning: offensive example follows), "Niggers should leave!" in a public place? If you value freedom of speech, you'd have to say yes, perhaps reluctantly. However, that is not the same as the privelege of having society defend me against the possibility of being battered for such a comment. Most would find such a response wrong (absent any physical action on my part), but certainly understandable (as would I). The burden of defending against the consequences of my speech, if I choose to excersize my freedom of same, rests on my shoulders.

    If I think it so important to express an idea that the risks I might face are worth it, in my opinion, then so be it. However, I can't simultaneously claim a freedom of speech and insist that I be protected from the response it might cause: it is up to the discretion of the "publicly funded" police to defend me only to the point of what the public considers "acceptable". Any defense I require beyond that is my responsibility.

    Historically, the United States, via the Supreme Court, has been very tolerant even of the expression of racial or religous prejeduce: I'm reminded of the Nazi march (all seven of then, IIRC) through Skokie, IL. some decades ago. (Personally, I'd have let the march happen, but not provide a shred of police protection - let the Nazis hire their own guards).

    Is there a risk that this would mean that widely unpopular ideas would get silenced, out of fear of retribution? I don't think so. Anonymity allows an idea to be expressed without identifying the protagonist -- if an idea is interesting (and controversial ideas are, by definition, interesting because of the controversy), it should stand on it's own, regardless of who's promoting it.

    The best we can do, then, for expression of unpopular ideas, is to not render such expression outright illegal, but neither should defense be provided for their protagnonists ad absurdum. And that, my friends, is how the First Amendment should be interpreted, IMHO.

  • As Janis Joplin sang:

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    Personally I'm not sure that I want that much freedom.

    In America we are lucky to have freedom of choice, but as anywhere else, not freedom of choices. The choices available to us are dictated by the tastes of the masses and the culture of this country. There may be plenty of things wrong with America, but I for one chose to live here, having moved from England. I think that trying to change a country you like is like trying to fix the "flaws" in a romantic partner - you realize that the flaws are part of the person that you were attracted to in the first place. I'm glad that America is a country where we can talk about what's wrong, but I'm not sure how many people would really like it if we truly did have complete freedom without the constraints of culture and custom.

    Another one of my favorite quotes is from Henry Moore, the British sculptor:

    "Form is liberating"

    You can choose to view the "form" of American culture as restrictive, or you can enjoy the freedom it gives you to be American!

    How free do you really want to be?

  • And who do these groups consist of? Is it Hispanic females? Maybe black homosexuals? NO. They consist primarily of WMCs. But I've never heard really of an anti-christian group, besides /other/ fundamentalists in other countries. But I have yet to see a group of christians attempting to lynch a scientist. Anyway, violence is often not the greatest problem. People who disagree with WMCs in governmental and powerful positions have a tendency of not getting hired/raised based on merit, not getting the same general privelages or funding, "disappearing" or getting incredibly long sentences in remote prisons (just ask Leonard Peltier), etc. Anyway, just recently WMCs dragged a black person behind their truck until he died from virtually distintegrating alive. Those guys were'nt radical AFAIK, they just saw a black, didn't like him, and decided to torture him. Good ole boys. Also there was some thing in Oklahoma city I happen to remember.

    Am I the only one who realizes that you can be White and Male, and NOT CHRISTIAN?! Anyone who would tie a guy to their truck and drag him until he died is NOT A CHRISTIAN, they are a SICK MOTHER FUCKER. I don't care what they call themselves, to be a christian you have to live by the Word, not just spew verses and go to church. Also, the groups killing scientists were in reference to several hundred years ago.
    The people bombing abortion clinics may claim christianity, but they aren't christians as has been patently demonstrated.
    Since when does your boss know your religious preference? That's illegal as anything I can think of and I don't know of anyone who would choose someone on religion over merit any more than they would choose family over merit. Which means it DOES happen, and it happens both ways.
    Radical muslims are anti-christian, I've run into plenty of Anti-christian atheists. Anti-christian Wiccans. Anti-christian Satanists.


  • ... is that it's occaisionally necessary to discuss Hitler and the Nazis, even on the Internet.

    Hitler wanted to kill Jews, saying they were less than human. Singer wants to kill handicapped kids, saying that they are less than human. Therefore, Singer's position is quite similar to the Nazis, we've just changed the definition of who is untermenschen. Hitler's policies were implemented, and mass murder resulted. Singer's policies have not yet been implemented. If they were, the results would be the same -- lots of handicapped kids would be killed. Singer would not "define" this as mass murder, but I do.

    So far, nobody has shown to me that there is a logical falacy in this progression; I simply get called names for daring to note the resemblance. Oh, yes, and I'm a "censor", according to Katz, for noting the resemblance and daring to exercise my own freedom of speech.

    The abolition of child-killing was one of the main tenets of the early Christians, and was one of the major reasons for Christianity's success in the old Roman Empire. It went against the old Romans, who routinely killed their own children for any reason they deemed fit. So this issue strikes and the very heart of Christian belief. So it naturally cannot even be discussed.

    This is why I wrote in the previous discussion that Singer is not offering any new viewpoint -- he is simply advocating a return to the old Roman practice.

    But you are (ahem) reality-challenged if you believe that this is not even being discussed, as the AP news references and these very discussions on Slashdot prove.

    Almost every contemporary proposal to bring freedom into the church is simply a proposal to bring tyranny into the world. ... I may, it is true, twist orthodoxy so as partly to justify a tyrant. But I can easily make up a German philosophy to justify him entirely.
    -- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy []
  • Would that disease have shown up in pre-natal screenings or did he get it from a rusty nail?

    The problem is opening the door to these types of decisions. I didn't read the Singer article so I might be missing a point somewhere. Killing for convenience should cause most people to feel really really bad, or at least it would me. The only way I think it is justifyable is when the patient asks for it, as a favor. Nature has it's own answer for much of this, you live a life, don't pass on your genes and die. When we think it is our place to step in, we have crossed a very definite line, one that I seriously doubt we are ready to take responsibility for (like my above post, we are still trying to pass off alcoholism as a disease)
  • by chromatic ( 9471 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @06:43AM (#1618496) Homepage

    Is it truly freedom, when you expect to be (at least) socially blasted for expressing controversial ideas?

    Sure! Or do you want Freedom From Consequences?

    If Singer has the free-speech rights to suggest euthanizing children under certain circumstances, I have the same right to call him a murderer or a monster or a hero or a saint.

    Funny, how expressing "unpopular" views makes one heroic, while expressing "popular" views makes one vulgar. If the simple act of expressing one's views is a Good Thing, does it really matter what those views are, Jon?

    Even if the majority of them are "Welcome to my homepage, it is under construction. Click Me to go back to Yahoo!"? Or does the message actually count for something, too?

    QDMerge [] 0.4 just released!
  • If I'm understanding Singer's argument correctly, he's arguing that babies with no self-awareness and no hope of self-awareness do not have the same ethical standing that babies with the potential for consciousness have.

    To say this somehow justifies euthanizing Dennis the Menace is nonsense.
  • OK, moderate me down if you want, but I agree with the basic points of the article, and find it reasonably well written.

    the basic point is that society needs people to say the unwelcome, this prevents people from being closed minded individuals, and makes them remember why they belive what they belive, or to change their belifes with their new realizations.

    I hope I am not too, um, circular or unclear with my statement

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <{tms} {at} {}> on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @06:55AM (#1618515) Homepage
    Would you be this offended if I were trying to stop you from running full speed off of a cliff, just because you didn't know it was there?
    Well, I would be highly annoyed if you kept screaming about how, according to some ancient book of Middle Eastern folk tales there was a cliff around here somewhere and I had better watch out, when in I was standing on solid ground, flat clear out to the horizon. Especially so if I'd been hearing about this damn fictional cliff all my life and you were telling me nothing I hadn't heard before.

    I don't like the idea that you live your life in a delusional state, holding to an inconsistent and illogical system of metaphysics. But I don't go around knocking on doors telling people "There is no god!" (or better yet, "You are god!") and handing out free brouchures detailing the contradictions and inconsistencies of the Bible and Christianity, or saying the Christians shouldn't be considered citizens because this is a nation not founded upon the Christian faith. Please do me the same courtesy.

  • Keeping a national museum of artifacts and items of historical interest is a far cry from subsidizing art. The former I have no problem with, as opposed to some of my more extreme libertarian compatriots. For instance, the National Archives, Smithsonian Institution (in fact, I'm a member of the Smithsonian), and Library of Congress don't bother me. Some of the political issues that come up with these institutions (like the recent war exhibit controversy at the Smithsonian) I have been annoyed by, but I don't question their existence or need. Where do I draw the line? In Josh's world, the Brooklyn Museum should not exist, at least not in a form that ever got subsidized rent and operating funds. If a private institution wanted to incorporate as the "Brooklyn Museum", rent space, and solicit funds, that's fine with me, and I have no objection to their right to exhibit whatever they wish.

    But the Josh government I dream of is very severely limited in powers and scope, and only attends to matters of direct, national interest (preservation of historical items is in that category to me). States and cities should not be in the museum business, and none of the above should be in the art business. I like art, I buy art, I make my own value judgments on art. There are plenty of private venues for art (both for-profit and non-profit in nature), including art that I find distasteful. I'm not interested in paying for any of it with taxpayer funds, though I'm perfectly happy with the existence of it.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • Greetings, As an avid reader of Slashdot, I think I can safely cite a thread like this as the primary reason I'm generally afraid to post anything. The often militant responses to this (and other Katz articles) illustrate very clearly one of Katz's primary points--the failure of the American sense of 'freedom' to say what you wish, to stir up discussion without fear of being shot down, well, within just about two hours, there are about two hundred comments, nearly all of which are inflamatory remarks against Katz, or immediate rejection of Singer's theories.

    Katz made an issue that a discussion about Euthanasia could only take place in the relative 'underground' of a place like Slashdot, but it seems apparent that not even Slashdot is ready for it. Katz, despite being attacked for 'ranting leftist idealogy' and promoting 'thought control,' quite clearly said that he wasn't sure about the issue. Jon Katz is not advocating killing children. He's merely using Singer as an example -- and a good one -- of how our culture tends to find any excuse it can (Katz's need of an editor, in one comment, or several past articles that are entirely unrelated to his present point) to utterly destroy any notion that is foreign to our accepted standards of what is ethical. Ideally, I tend to think of the 'geek' avant garde as being less reactionary and more directly critical and thoughtful of any notion, be it Katz's, Singer's, or CmdrTaco's, but there is an unnerving tendancy to blow the author out of the water because (in prior episodes) he actually used Microsoft Word to write it.

    Maybe we should actually consider the points Katz is trying to get at, rather than attacking the pencil he's using to elucidate them? Or go another step and forget about attacking the person holding the pencil; Katz is trying to do what writers do best, which is to ask questions of his audience. Faulkner, Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, and any other great writer didn't come out and deliver earth-shattering epiphanes that made people go 'Whoa!' They pointed out something about their readers that profoundly disturbed them.

    So be disturbed, and consider the questions that Katz (via Singer) asks; perhaps we'd see more than one or two posts above a '3' that way.


  • If I am correctly summing up what my nurse friends tell me, these babies' bills almost always go well beyond what the parents' insurance will cover (which is zero for the uninsured).The balance is paid by Medicaid; in other words, the taxpayers.

    This means that all the parents who bring damaged children into the world because they decided to drink, or smoke, or ignore pre-natal care, or just eat all wrong (folate deficiency apparently causes the majority of neural-tube defects like spina bifida) are sticking the rest of us with the bill.And yes, I resent it.
    Deja Moo: The feeling that

  • OOps, ammend NAZI in my comment to read Neo-NAZI. If you don't believe that the KKK is a Neo-NAZI hate group then check out their websites...

  • by JordanH ( 75307 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @07:10AM (#1618541) Homepage Journal

    This is the worst piece on Free Speech and what it means to be a free people that I think I've ever read. Jon Katz should perhaps read something about the philosophical underpinnings of our rights and the responsibilities that these rights imply.

    Somehow, supporting the right of someone to express an opinion has become conflated with supporting someone in expressing an opinion.

    Pat Buchanan, Jesse Ventura, The Brooklyn Museum, none of these are examples of censorship. There are examples of people freely expressing desenting views and people exercising their right of association (in these cases disassociating themselves with, and withdrawing their active support for, opinions they find wrong or offensive).

    There are so many absurd examples in this article that I don't have time to go over them all. The worst might be that Pat Buchanan is having some First Amendment right taken away because the Republicans don't agree with his views and don't feel that he represents their principles. I suppose if Clinton suddenly started spouting Stalinist slogans and calling for a centralized economy that it would be an abridgement of his First Amendment Rights if the Democratic party were to oust him? Patently absurd.

    Pat Buchanan is exercising his right to associate with those who agree with him by going to the Reform Party. If the Reform Party makes Pat Buchanan their Presidential candidate would the rights of Donald Trump be trampled on because the Reform Party would be withdrawing their support from him? It would seem to follow from Katzian logic.

    It's a complete strawman that H.L. Mencken couldn't get a job in any newspaper today. I see a lot of columnists who make a practice of poking fun at religion, or expressing anti-religious views, and they just seem to get more popular. Molly Ivans and Ellen Goodman come immediately to mind.

    Confusing this issue is the case of Mr. Singer. Mr. Singer enjoys the academic freedom which we have bestowed upon people with tenure. I do believe that it would be wrong, although not an abridgement of a Constitutionally guaranteed right, to fire Mr. Singer for expressing his view.

    I think it would be right for Slashdot, for example, to stop supporting a certain Feature writer. Slashdot makes frequent editorial decisions. They don't publish every feature submitted, after all. Are they censoring those that they don't print? One of the editorial criteria is supposed to be that it's well thought out and coherent. This feature doesn't pass the test, if you ask me.

    I wonder if I'll now be ostracized for suggesting that Jon Katz should be "censored"?

  • Nope, all I'm saying is that each newborn could be either, there's only one way to find out. My point was that if you want to clean the gene pool by aborting what look to be useless lives you will most likely pick off some good ones. Maybe this would only happen in the some cases (Your baby has a 75% chance of being an invalid past the age of 5), but this is a bad door to open. Look at how many kids get diagnosed with ADD nowadays.
  • Katz wasn't supporting or not supporting Singers viewpoint. He thinks it is wrong to have your life put into danger simply because you say things that piss people off. He is correct about that. He correctly pointed out that many of the politically ambitous are simply trying to get mileage out of Singers controversial view points. That many cease to listen right at the moment their undeserved self serving,self-rightous rage kicks in.

    Personally I disagree with Singers proposition and those who support him. Referencing the value of human life in such monetary terms is IMHO inhuman. One of the signs of a civilized society is the innate high value it places on all human life, independent of what the life will or won't contribute to society.

    Just to re-inforce Katz's point......
    We really aren't a free country. Just try to find and rent an unrated directors cut of a movie at Viacoms' Blockbuster video (the nations largest video chain). Do to pressure from highly motivated conservative extremist groups and individuals, they stopped purchasing them over 6 years ago. They, not the US government, have effectivly censored artistic freedom with their tremendous buying power.
  • Singer is niether brave nor brilliant, but I will give him credit for one thing: He points out quite clearly the conclusion a nihilistic worldview must reach. A traditional Judeo-Christian worldview has a quite different take on things. This is the real clash here - a culture clash - one of conflicting worldviews that by their very nature cannot be reconciled.

    The religious argument is quite appropriate here in light of the worldview conflict. Dostoevsky said it best: "If God does not exist, then all things are permissable." But we *know* deep down in our souls and bones, that right and wrong DO exist and all things are not permissable. And that in turn demands the existence of God. And if God exists, then perhaps we should listen to what He has to say about killing. (For those of you that ask, "Which god?", I suggest you search for the one which corresponds to truth - that one will be God, not god.)

    Singer's argument is perfectly logical, but that points out its fallacy, and the fact that his logical conclusions are based on false premises. If one does not believe in God, then it does not much matter what one does. Many would claim that we should all be free to do whatever we want so long as we don't hurt others, but why should even this restriction exist in the abscence of God? If it pleases me to say, kill Peter Singer because I disagree with him, and there is no God, no objective right and wrong, why shouldn't I do it? I have never found a satisfactory answer to this question outside the conclusion that the question is invalid and God must exist.

    On the issue of America losing its freedom because Singer feels threatened: America is a free country, and Singer is free to speak in marked and unguarded classrooms. He has chosen instead to act as a coward. Those that proclaim truth seldom do so with cowardice, those that believe it never do.

    Katz further falls victim to the idea that all ideas are created equal. They are not. Singer's ideas devalue humanity and are not equal in value to say, Mother Theresa's. The press, society, and yes, even discussion groups are working properly when they supress the propagation of ideas and values that are evil or harmful.

    Jesse Ventura did not "question religion" in any intelligent way, he simply exposed his bigotry and prejudice. This is not something to be celebrated whether or not you agree with the man. (And despite what the community here may think, many, if not most, Christians have thought deeply and logically about their faith and its implications.)

    Furthermore, the use of terms like murder are not at all incorrect in this circumstance, and certainly do not prohibit a dialog. A quick check with shows a definition of murder as "the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought". I think most would go further and say that a component of murder would be that the person killed (and it must be a person, despite what Singer says) is not maliciously endangering the life of the person doing the killing - thus the "self-defense" exception. Disabled infants or inconvenient elders (remember, you may be one some day, especially if you haven't taught your children the value of life) may indeed cause extreme hardship and inconvenience, but there is certainly no malice in their hearts driving their condition, and so killing them would, by any reasonable standard, be murder. Killing simply for the convenience of the killer is never justifiable.

    Killing another person is generally (but not always) deemed to be justified in cases of war (which can be morally defended only if one is sure one is on the right side or forced into service), self defense against a life-threatening attack, or in certain cases and within well-prescribed bounds, to enforce the law.

    The killing of deformed infants, the infirm, the physically disabled, the elderly, the currently out-of-favor religious/ethnic group, and yes, even the unborn clearly do not fall into that category. Every stable (and that's a *very* important qualifier) society in history has proscribed such behavior. Many here dismiss the "slippery slope" argument, but history shows that societies that start down it inevitably wind up at the bottom.

    Finally, I thought it was interesting that even Katz seems to leave open the question of knowing "whether any of these ideas have legitimacy and are worth exploring, or whether some deserve to be roundly rejected." Interestingly, Katz seems to think that only he or those that agree with him can assert that an idea should be roundly rejected.

    All ideas are clearly NOT equal. If we begin to treat them as if they are, we will make some very bad choices indeed. Some ideas are worthy of a serious discussion. Peter Singer's are not that kind.
  • by IIH ( 33751 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @07:17AM (#1618555)
    I'm Jewish, so I couldn't care less about it's offensive value or lack thereof, but it's pretty clear it's derogatory to Catholics

    I'm not being argmentive, but did you actually ask any catholics before forming this view? For instance, I'm Catholic, and I didn't find it offensive at all. In fact, I thought it was stupid to oppose the display on religious grounds. If you refused to display something because it might offend someone, you'd end up displaying nothing. I ask you, would the Mayor have taken the same action, if it would have been offensive to say, islamics, hindu, or any other religion? I think not.

    One of my favourite sayings is "Offence is taken, never given" Yes, many people say that "free speech doesn't mean we have to pay you to say it", and that is true - to an extent. But, would you regard it as a breach of free speech, if the government gave the use of halls rent free only to people who said nice things about them? If a public official refuses access to some "offensive" material, then he should by right, refuse access to it all. If a public official decides what it offensive or not, based on his private opinion, then that is censorship.

    As an aside, it could be worse. A few years back the Monty Python film, "Life of Brian" was banned in Ireland.

    In society, there are no absolute rights. All rights are relative to how they impact on each other member of society. You are "free" to do what you like, so long as your use of your "freedom" doesn't impact adversly other people's "freedom". Of course, there is always an impact, and society, as a whole, must decide where those lines are drawn.

    To finish, a quote from the film Dead Poets Society
    "Only in dreams are men truly free ; 'twas always thus, and always thus will be"

  • Are you sure you're not inflating the meaning of "Nazi" here? AFAIK, the KKK are white supremacists and justify their believes through a warped version of Christianity. IMO, that doesn't necessarily mean they believe in a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (WordNet's definition of fascism, which is the closest term to Nazism I can find a usable definition of using dict).

    I may be mistaken in my impression of how the KKK operates. But I am fairly certain that they are a Neo-Nazi hate group which bases their view of the 'Superior' Race on the tenets that Hitler put down. As usual, I could be wrong.


  • Only the legal system is important!

    Sure, you can be 'socially blasted' for unpopular opinions. But disallowing that is censorship.

    If you have an unpopular opinion, WHY is it wrong for the majority to voice their opinion back??? Are you advocating that only unpopular opinions may be voiced? And don't try to wiggle your way out with statements that the majority-opinion holders must be standing on prejudicial ground. THAT, sir/maam, is prejudice.

    Can someone rationalize through many views and possibly come out with the same view the majority holds? YES! Can they voice their opinion? YES! Because they can is what makes America free, that they do is inconsequential.

    If you have an unpopular opinion, go ahead and express it, just don't expect everyone to agree and praise you for being so wise.

  • Actually, compassion is under-rated. If a person has the mental powers of a 3 year old, you may not love him-but someone probably does. Fortunately, the decision is not up to you or I to make.

    Someone who has had a life-long struggle coping with issues that us *normal* people could never imagine are much stronger than you or I will ever be. They are the survivors of a world that can be cruel and thoughtless without an ounce of remorse for any scars that they might have made on their lives.

    When I was born, I was extremely cross-eyed and had to have corrective I have 20/20 vision and do not need the use of glasses anymore. I can only thank God that my mother was just as happy to hold me after I was born, even if I had a third eye on my forehead.

    So why shouldn't any child-no matter how ugly, deformed or simple-minded he is-have the opportunity to receive some compassion as well? Being a parent-this opinion is one-sided. Simply because I cannot envision the monstrosity it would take to ever kill my child.

    Especially before I even knew her.
  • Personally, I haven't even begun to formulate what I think about this idea. But I want-need to read, mull and talk about it. The wanton use of terms like "murder" and "genocide" make that impossible, and that means we aren't free either.

    Translation: I haven't given the issue any solid thought, but it bugs me that some people are using a strong, clear word like "murder", and I'm afraid that will focus my thinking too much. Theyfore, they are practicing censorship.

    Hogwash. While words are powerful, they are not that powerful. Polemics are not censorship. Else you'd be guilty of "censorship" by your vilification of Singer's critics here.

    Singer is no monster, and the notion that he's an advocate of mass murder seems outrageously simple-minded and hysterical, a club to shut him up rather than a way to support or refute his ideas.

    It may seem "simple-minded," but it's actually the entire point. Singer says that killing handicapped babies isn't murder. His opponents say that it is. That's the substance of the debate, and if you're not comfortable with the terminology, that's more a reflection on you than on Singer's critics.

    ... it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer. That is why, in recent literature, there has been so little argument and so much sneering.
    -- G. K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox
  • He simply said that the taxpayers don't have to pay for it.
    The state may choose to fund the arts, or not to fund the arts. But if it decides to fund, it cannot decide which works of art to fund based on ideology - especially in the case of religion.

    Would it be better not to have public funding at all? In a system with some economic justice, perhaps; but where wealth is controled by a handful of wealthy persons and large corporations, you'll just get art singing the praises of Bill Gates or Coca-Cola.

  • I hate the fallout from the brooklyn museum, but in a way the curators deserved what happened. I've recieved grants that were partialy funded by the NEA, and some of my subject matter I'm sure would have made Jesse Helms jet green flame out of his ass, but looking at the decisions the curators made, i can't see them as free speech heroes.

    Religion and Art have been intertwined since both of them began, and even though I personally see nothing in the works in questions but some moderate art ability coupled with sensationalistic content to grab attention, I would defend funding for it. The funny thing is the artist didn't recieve any public funds, but the fallout from this has brought back the same tired jabs at the NEA. This is a Bad Thing for the art community, brought about by some half-assed jerk who was grabing for his 15 minutes of fame the easy way.
    Here's the real problem I have with the museums self righteous defence. Everyone involved in the decisions over the content of the show was Jewish. Last year an exibit was thrown out that had defaced stars of david and swastikas. It was considered anti-semetic. In all fairness in an age of political correctness, where anything with tinges of anti-semitism is viewed on a backdrop of the holocost it's possible that the curators completely forgot the fact that judaism is a religion. It still begs the question why did two jews give a big stamp of approval for a series of anti-catholic pieces and the boot to the anti-judaism exibit.
    This whole controversy is a blow to free speech, race relations, it makes me ill to think about it. The true anti-semites got a PR boost, the folks who try and kill the miserable dribble of money that the federal government contributes to art are having revival, black, black times for the arts.
  • While not all Christians hold this view point (but then are they true Christians?), but a very large amount of them do. Do you? Do you honestly believe this, and are you really trying to save me from this impending doom? No matter how I live my life, I will suffer eternally... if you are not able to "save" me?

    Ok, I'm going to do my best to explain the way Christianity as I have studied it works. Others my disagree with me, but this is how I understand it.

    Ok, people do bad things, no one can argue that they have NEVER EVER done anything wrong.
    When you do something wrong, you are punished for it. This punishment is being cast into the lake of fire for all eternity.
    In order to avoid this fate you must quite simply allow God to remove the mark of your wrong deed from you, and place it onto the burden of Christ. This can be accomplished by a 30 second prayer and a request that God come to dwell in your life.
    Just saying the words won't do it, you have to believe it when you say it.
    This process is one time only, no matter what you do after this you don't have to do it again.
    (Saved)Christians are massively punished in life for wrong deeds they perform in life.

    God allowed Christ, an extension of himself, to dwell in Hell for 3 days in order to extoll the wrong deeds of every human being who is willing to accept that gift. If you accept it then you dwell in paradise for eternity. (there are alternate views on how this actually works, one of which is my own personal view but it is so long and complicated that it needs a post of its own).

    A lot of people will argue that if God really loved everyone and wanted everyone to go to heaven he would simply snap his fingers (or whatever) and it would be done. I compare this to someone looking at a man giving out free lunches to anyone who was willing to show up, and complaining that he should be searching out every person who wants a free lunch and giving it to them.To these people It isn't enough that he sent out a bunch of people to tell everyone about the free lunches.

    This is the way I see christianity, christ and being saved. If you have specific questions you can either e-mail me or ask them here.

  • I have a problem with your arugement here. I don't belive that if God doesn't exist then all things are permissable. Also, you might want to find out what different societies feel is "right and wrong". Trust me, its not universal, as much as we'd like it to be.

    I'll let Dostoevsky speak for himself. Numerous other philosophers (even atheists) have reached essentially the same conclusion. There is little difference of opinion between civilized societies about major points such as the wrongness of taking another's life.

    I can come up with a stable society that allowed for the killing of children. The Roman society allowed for this through most of its rise and into its high point. That practice did decline as the years passed but it was known to happen.

    Infanticide has been practiced to some degree in all societies, as has other kinds of murder. I believe your timeline is backwards. It was rare in Rome until just before the decline and fall of the empire. I maintain that the moral decay brought on by such practices hastened the demise of Rome, thus my qualifier of "stable".
  • Well, I would be highly annoyed if you kept screaming about how, according to some ancient book of Middle Eastern folk tales there was a cliff around here somewhere and I had better watch out, when in I was standing on solid ground, flat clear out to the horizon. Especially so if I'd been hearing about this damn fictional cliff all my life and you were telling me nothing I hadn't heard before.
    I don't like the idea that you live your life in a delusional state, holding to an inconsistent and illogical system of metaphysics. But I don't go around knocking on doors telling people "There is no god!" (or better yet, "You are god!") and handing out free brouchures detailing the contradictions and inconsistencies of the Bible and Christianity, or saying the Christians shouldn't be considered citizens because this is a nation not founded upon the Christian faith. Please do me the same courtesy.

    Firstly, just because you can't see the cliff, doesn't mean it isn't there.

    Second, last time I checked my metaphysics aren't any more improbable than yours. Saying that the 'Big Bang' is a logical beginning for the universe seems delusional to me. But I won't try to stop you from saying it's so. I may try to convince you that you are wrong though.

    Third, no one is stopping you from going door to door handing out tracts and spreading the belief that there is no God.

  • Human rights apply to sentient beings and those well underway to become sentient beings.

    Any single cell in your body has the same potential to develop (through technological aid, and the aid of a womb) into a sentient being as the unborn clump of cells that eventually develop into a child by simply containing the necessary DNA. How can you resolve such ethics when you 'abort' thousands of potential people every time you shower? Where do you draw the line? Who are you to force people to go through the pain of having an unwanted pregnancy on the merits of protecting what amounts to being no more 'human' than the average amount of cells youll find in a pillow?

    As for taxpayers paying, I think Id like to get back what the average taxpayer has paid for others religious beliefs the last couple of thousand years, thankyouverymuch. Christians have no buisness talking about taxpayers money for the next few milennia.
  • I liked the article even if it did ramble a bit.

    As an American who was raised overseas I have had
    the chance to see both sides of the coin. I can
    state from being in "my" country for 25 years
    now that I have yet to see anything but blatant
    rigid intolerance for any differences so often
    as to color my own support of "my" country.

    I may not agree with Springer but I think that
    he is being persecuted. Guards,locked class rooms
    and an concealed office. How would you feel if
    you were in his shoes?

    Change is bad and we dont want to have to think!

  • Ya know what I hate more than Christian Bashing is people who claim to be Christians who bash others. I wish people would read their fucking bible and they'd know they don't recogize the same God as I do. I consider myself a Christian, and a pretty damn tolerant one.

    I have to fervently agree with this entire post. The type of so-called Christian that he describes is precisely why the real Christians have such a hard time with people.

  • Which he is in he perfectly legal right to do so as Mayor of NY. Just because they have the right to say whatever they want doesn't mean we should be forced to fund them!

    What if the mayor was trying to de-fund/evict the New York Public Library for stocking a book that contained ideas which he disagreed with? The public have been funding all kinds of unpopular and controversial ideas for a hundred years thanks to our public library system. What's the difference?
  • except for that last sentence(huh?)
    "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" is a Zen Buddhist saying. There are other similar expressions in Zen teaching: one Zen master says "I do not understand Buddhism", another burns statues of the Buddha, and so on. I think Zen teachers would wholeheartedly approve of a statue of the Buddha made from dung.

    The idea is not to get attached to the idea of the Buddha, or indeed the idea of anything - the thing's the thing. Don't make good and bad, holy and profane, Buddha and not-Buddha. Just this!

    Anyway, on the flag thing - personally, I think the flag should be burned whenever some slimeball politician wraps himself up in it.

  • I find it quite interesting that the same people who spout, "Just don't buy it, then!" when the discussion is about pornography in general, get so upset when the mayor of New York simply decides he isn't going to buy a pornographic and overtly offensive museum exhibit.

    Not buying something is not censorship. Mayor Giuliani is simply not buying.

    This infringes no ones rights. Forcing the taxpayers to support something they generally find repugnant definitely infringes their rights, though.

  • Ahem. I didn't see any reference to white male Christians until you brought it up. Are you saying that if you disagree with someone, they *should* have to teach in a guarded, unlisted classroom?
    Yeah, right. And am I correct in inferring that you believe that anyone who is *not* white, male, or Christian tends to be a Liberal? If so, do you think that, the more truth there is in that statement, the more reason there would be for them to be so?

    No, my IMPRESSION of the article and some of the examples that were used, happened to make connections in my mind to a chain of events which had been loosely connected before whereby WMCs are shouted down whenever they try to say 'This is Wrong.' whereas other groups are allowed to say whatever they want and applauded for it. This does not have anything to do with liberal or conservative. It's all about society and its perception of Christianity and Christians.

  • ... up until this post. I think it is preposterous to suggest that every person who does not convert goes to hell. And I'm a Christian. The Catholic church believes this to be true, but I personally don't find enough compelling evidence in the Bible to support it. Anyway, you may be right and you may be wrong. Nobody knows. You have every right to believe whatever you want. You also have every right to practice your religion, as long as that does not include restricting (through legislation) or violating the rights of others. You also don't have the right to harass others as part of practicing your religion. It is certainly acceptable to promote awareness of your religion in the hope of saving others through advertising and similar means. But the actions of missionaries and some modern Christian groups occasionally crosses over into the realm of harassment or violating anothers rights.

    I'll admit I could very well be wrong. My beliefs are based on my own study and may not quite sync with what other people have arrived at through study. I also admit that I tend to err on the side of Caution. I do agree with you that the violent methods of some christians are reprehensible. They need to re-read some of the book they are trying to teach, because apparently they don't understand it.

  • In some bizarre narcissistic drive to see his words in print and debated, Katz seems to have taken far, far, too many lines to say something I can summarize in two:

    • Honestly debating ideas you disagree with is better than flaming them.
    • Technology creates new ideas for people to flame, but also also makes it harder for flamers to stop debate.

    I'm surprised the average /. reader finds this worthy of debate.

    (On the other hand, the moral issues he raised as examples are certainly worthy of debate both on /. and elsewhere)


  • * So, is there anything wrong with, say, NY State revoking *all* funding for *all* Museums, regardless of that exhibit or not? Give, say, 4 years to find sponsors before it takes effect. There are sufficient people with disposable income and a liking for arts that they'll likely put their money where their mouth is.

    That's nicely even-handed, and as long as it's an _irrevocable decision_, not coercive because there's no way to avoid that cut.

    It lets all the private folks who DO want to support art support what they like, and avoids controversy because the Gov't suddenly loses leverage -- in much the same way that the Gov't tries to avoid much to do with organized religion, also over 1st Amendment concerns. Art that nobody likes, well -- time for the "artist" to get another job. That's in much the same way that nobody _has_ to publish a chap's treatise, and so forth.

    * Was it a lease violation, or not? The lease could be interpreted as meaning that exhibits must be open to *all* -- including children.

    * Single people and small groups make decisions all the time. Did you personally OK any Presidential troop deployment? Did you OK last year's Federal budget? Do you participate in all your applicable stockholder meetings, or do you go through proxies? Here, the Gov't is a proxy...
  • If the members of the KKK call themselves Christian, then who am I (and who are you) to disagree? If somebody elects to call themselves a Christian, I have no choice but to believe them.

    Well then! Whadda ya know! I'm the President. And who are you to disagree? It doesn't matter that no one elected me, that I don't have any of the presidential responsibilities, that I am demsontrably NOT the president. Since I said it it must be true!

    Yeesh, people can claim to be anything that they want. Don't take it at face value. KKK members are not christians because they do not follow the precepts taught by Christ. In order to be a CHRISTian you must follow the teachings of CHRIST.

  • Almost all of the people who are counted as "poor" own at least one color TV
    So what? Color TVs are cheap in this country. You can pick up a used one for a few bucks - or free. The color TV is no longer a luxury item.

    I'm far from poor, but I paid for neither of my color TVs. One was a gift from my parents over fifteen years ago, one was my grandfather's and no ones else in the family had a use for it when he passed on.

    One friend who is genuinely poor (she's disabled by severe OCD and receives SSI and food stamps) has both a color TV (12 inch or so) and a computer (486 with Win3.1). Both were cast-offs from middle-class friends who had upgraded to bigger screens and faster processors. Neither one helps her out when the landlord raises the rent, or her food stamps are cut.

    But the computer (or, rather AOL) does help her stay in touch with friends, and find information and support for her mental illness. Her biggest worry on the tech front is that AOL keeps upgrading - or bloating - their software, and she can't upgrade her hardware to keep up.

  • Why must an art gallery rely on public money? Unless it specializes in art that nobody wishes to support, that is...

    You don't see Gov't-owned major metropolitan newspapers, do you? They're also covered by the 1st, in case you didn't realize, and yet there's no taxpayer obligation to fund them. And that's a good thing, because anytime you ask for the Gov't's money, you require Gov't judgement, discretion, opinions, etc.... and are no longer independent.
  • * Actually, East Timor was covered decently well by the _Times_. And papers like the local _Militant_, put out by local socialist groups, are free to use hyperbole as much as they want, to.

    * Laos was a perfectly valid target, because the Ho Chi Minh trail within in was a conduit for conveying troops and supplies. Take the fight where the enemy is -- duh!

    * Um, you *do* know that we have numerous Spanish stations, right? And whole neighborhoods...

    * No dissent in the press? Whatever. You must not read *at all*.
  • That dichotomy is artificial. For instance, I choose what to write; it's not worth anybody's time to force me to type rambling submissions to Slashdot, say.

    Ex. Try lying on your next tax return. The IRS will clearly consider *you* responsible, and not just condemn the text...

    Ergo, if a post of mine seems fairly bizarre for some reason, it validly reflects on my opinions and mentality. Except when I'm simply trying to roil the waters, or play the legal-trained employee of a diabolical infernal creature -- a strong temptation, I must admit -- the odds are decent that the presented opinions reflect at least somewhat on ME.

    In the same way, if Singer _chooses_ to speak what he will, that's a reflection on HIM. To criticize or praise the idea without criticizing or praising his judgement would therefore be silly.
  • Well, there's at least one difference that he may have had in mind.

    It can be argued that the widespread presence of firearms -- accompanied by responsibility and training -- belonging to citizens inhibits coercion by others, and may possibly reduce crime rates; see Switzerland for an example of a remarkably armed, yet non-self-destructive society. Conversely, witness other nations, with armed criminals butchering unarmed civillians (such as in Algeria and South Africa).

    It is more difficult to argue the existence of such a benefit for certain controlled substances, like heroin or crystal meth, while many drawbacks tend to be obvious.
  • In my understanding groups that tend to believe this fall towards the Ultra-protestants, Baptists and non-denominational faiths, in which the Bible is taken close to word for word, and believed to be 100% true.

    Hold your horses a bit, I'm a Southern Baptist and I don't know of anyone who thinks that the bible is 100% quite literally true. We believe that everything it says is in some way true, but not LITERALLY so. The reason for this is understanding. Revelations is a perfect view of this. If you take it literally it means a 7 horned monster is going to eat all the christians and all other kinds of preposterous things.
    This is because if God had said 'America will be rulled by a 7 man council who, using the Internet and Television will have all of the christians persecuted to death' it wouldn't have made any sense to John. Also, the image he saw, which looked like this to him, may be something which if one of us saw we would recognize instantly as a bit of technology we have now.

  • Bah. It's _ancient_ and worldwide.

    Everything from leaving deformed infants to die, to classifying females as inferior and executing them, and so forth.

    There's a difference, 'tho, with Singer's position: the National Socialists imposed it from the Government's will, while Singer's comes from the parents. That's a *huge* difference.
  • All the jousting over the minutia of legalities vs. social tyranny miss the point.

    Many of the themes I see in the various works of Mr. Katz seem to revolve around social hysteria and the psychoses that our society, as a whole, seem to be stricken with. Personal freedoms, whether by law or by custom, do not amount to much when society reacts to the slightest provocation like a skittish school of fish.

    We are bored folks. It is human nature to complain, and this trait will always be with us. People will complain about whatever is on their mind. In a land of bounty, if a hangnail is all you have to complain about, then complain you will. People will scream bloody murder over who's fault their hangnail is right up until the day they lose an arm. It's all about perspective.

    We need a Frontier, big time. A challenging, even deadly, Frontier. When there are no significant challenges to survival, society loses perspective on what really matters. When you're busy trying to survive you don't have time for psychoses.

    We can't all be on the frontier, of course, but frontier perspectives help to balance social discourse. I guarantee we'd have more voices like Ventura if we *did* have another frontier.

    Keep up the good work, Katz. It is not difficult to see the themes in your work; at least not nearly as difficult as many of these ninnies insist.

  • When people hear an idea that they are passionately opposed to, they will try to SHOOT IT DOWN.

    The real problem IMHO is that if your view is controversial enough, they will try to shoot down the person as well as the idea. Sometimes literally. That includes such attacks as demanding that the person be sanctioned (fired or demoted, banned from further expression, etc.). At that point, the people have gone beyond free expression into personal attack. (Please note a distinction between expressing the opinion that the person is unsuitable for the job and demanding termination).

    In Singer's case, that's exactly what has happened. His right to free expression has been limited by those attacks.

  • Sorry, no: you're badly misinterpreting the situation. Katz gets a free ride- he has the ability to post stories unedited and without direction. He abuses this privilege.
    Look- I tried to contribute something to Slashdot, too. I erred in thinking self-promotion would work, I erred in underestimating the need for specifically Linux stuff- what I suggested was this page of mine: html []. This is the first appearance of a GPLed game terrain engine, more accurately of a method for deriving insanely detailed data from a particular sort of datafile of limited size (16M).
    I have movies up, I have pictures, I have the (REALbasic, but think of it as 'pseudo-code') GPLed source code up. I've put months, _years_ into this work, there's lots more still to do, and I wanted to get serious publicity for it specifically so that any ideas worth keeping from it couldn't ever be patented. To me that was worth giving up any notion of profit or control from the ideas themselves (on the other hand, it'd be fun to make a game from such ideas and try to sell the art and concept around the game, with the engine being completely open but the story and art copyrighted works being sold).
    Well, I miscalculated, and I accept that. Silly of me to even try self-promoting and submitting my own story in hopes of it being run on Slashdot (not to mention not having Linux binaries, but that's more than I can do currently). Rejection sucks, but it happens when you and your audience mismatch. (I'm not going to try and go to Freshmeat until I can come up with proper Linux code, which might be a while yet, as I'm getting no help from anyone on any of this).
    And meanwhile, blithely, Jon Katz takes up the space I was denied- not working hard and trying to bring innovative ideas to Slashdotters like I was, oh no! Instead, he's a rabblerouser! He's descended to where he is only restating other Slashdot articles, in the most inflammatory manner possible, couching it in tired rhetoric.
    I have no problem whatsoever with Slashdot using editorial judgement and witholding publicity from me personally, or any ideas I might have. Decisions have to be made and there are worse things than not being given a story on slashdot (if you're a server, the 'worse thing' might _be_ getting a story on slashdot ;) ). However, I and most Slashdot readers have a problem with Katz not being subject to editorial judgement, not being subject to the standards any normal person would be held to when trying to get stories on Slashdot.
    I agree with you on one point only. Let Katz write- on the privacy of his own Mac. There is no reason for him to be 'published', and if you are for one second suggesting that his empty restatement of the Singer story is 'ideas more valuable' than the months of GPLed game engine algorithm work I tried to bring to Slashdotters' attention as a story, you're out of your mind.
    It's not even that what I had to offer was so great- I think it's pretty cool, and you could adapt the ideas to many things, and those ideas can be kept safe from patents with glaring publicity, but what the hey, it's just some fun code. But compared to this?
    Let Katz write- don't let him POST. He can put his ideas in the queue like anybody else. He doesn't deserve special treatment, he doesn't deserve editorial status. Let him post comments like your average MEEPT!.
  • My main argument against the termination/euthanasia/whatever term you want to use is both emotional and practical. Emotionally, I think it's just wrong. Practically speaking, a good illustration of why it is wrong can be summed up in one person. St ephen Hawking [].

    He wasn't born disabled, but if his parents could have looked at his genes and see how he would suffer as he grew, they would have been appalled. They might have even considered it a blessing to terminate him as an infant to spare him the suffering. If they had done so, they would have snuffed out a life that was not only full, but truly pushed the envelope of human understanding.

  • In NONE of the cases Katz brought up did the GOVERNMENT infringe on anybody's first amendment rights. And that's all the first amendment is - if you say something somebody doesn't like, you can't be arrested for it and they have nothing on you in court, because you were simply expressing your view.

    The first ammendment does NOT read "Everybody must be provided a forum to say whatever they want, wherever they want." You can write for a newspaper and start spreading around antisemetism, and nobody will arrest you and charge you with "disturbing the peace" or anything like that. But the newspaper is not obligated to keep you on staff - they are perfectly within their rights to fire you.

    Any kind of "censorship" here is just what Katz said - social taboos. Does anyone out there realistically think that there is any way to make social taboos dissappear off the face of the earth in favor of a society of pure intellectualism? I didn't think so.

  • I don't see Jon Katz lifting a damn finger to see to it that people listen to _me_. I could be the cleverest guy around, I could be incredibly karmically gifted (eh- '45' is semi karmically gifted for Slashdot) but Katz doesn't care. He isn't the least bit interested in fighting for my 'right' to publicity and free Slashdot stories.
    And this is okay, because I don't _have_ such a right. If I work hard enough (like with my work-in-progress GPLed game terrain engine concepts [], eventually I would get that attention. It might take years, but I don't need Katz's help.
    The problem is, he feels very differently about any of _his_ thoughts. To him, there is a _right_ to publicity, Slashdot story posting access (just for him! Not for the common people), and even to criticise that makes a person a CENSOR. My wanting him to lose story posting access makes me a CENSOR.
    Well, tough. He does not have a right to publicity. It is a privilege he abuses, it's granted to him through Rob Malda and not by some global sense of the fitness of things, and it should be taken away. Katz needs to put the same effort into his thoughts and work as the rest of us have to. It's extremely annoying to see him justify clinging to his unreasonably nepotistic position by accusing critics of censorship. We are not born with write privileges to the world, nor with a stage conveniently growing out of our feet. If we want such exciting abilities to communicate on a broad basis, we have to go out and earn them, and convince someone with the means that our voice deserves amplification. Having done that, we become privileged, and that can be very transient.
  • This particular concept is so anti-Christian, but, appallingly, it's become a major belief of many so-called Christians. When you do something wrong, you are punished so that you learn from the punishment, if the person who punishes you cares about you. To torture someone eternally for a wrongdoing is not punishment in the sense of teaching the punished, but, rather, in the sense of teaching others that they don't want to be punished. As for the punished, they become nothing more than a thing to be discarded and ignored, and I cannot and will not believe in a such a horrifically callous diety. A God who would do such things would put any earthly dictator to shame, no matter how cruel they were.

    Scriptural analysis of any mentions of eternal damnation (of which, if I recall, there is only one) have been found to have several possible meanings. Of course, this argument only applies if you do not believe the KJV Bible to be absolute truth.

    I must ask people to please not judge all Christians as you would some of the more unfortunately vocal extremists and hypocrites...

    How is it cruel to show someone what is going to happen as a result of their actions, and then hand them to way to avoid that on a silver platter? I freely admit that I may be mistaken in many places in my view of the way God works, if I knew how He worked then I'd BE God, now wouldn't I? It may very well be that non-evil non-christians are reborn to try things again, while evil christians AND evil non-christians are thrown into the lake for eternity and non-evil christians go to heaven. This actually seems like a much better idea... And an entirely more sensible way to do things. I think I shall take another look at my Bible and possibly adjust my philsophy to contain this if my perusal so merits.

  • And you *must* believe that either 1) At some point, a fetus is not yet a person and abortion is not murder or 2) any pre-human is as good as human, and terminating it is murder. There is *no* rational middle ground.

    Ok, by logical extension of #1, then we must be able to define that point somehow which has not yet been done to anyone's satisfaction. If I'm wrong about this please let me know.

    By extension of #2, If abortion were deemed legal then it would be equally legal to kill any random person you wanted to.

    After all, what is the difference between the 5 minutes before the baby is born and the 5 minutes after? 3 weeks before? 3 months before? Where is the magic point after which you can say 'This is human, this deserves to live' ? If one is allowable then all are allowable. Until someone shows absolutely where sentient life begins we can not justify abortion as anything other than murder.

  • I am not the best person to argue the case on a purely logical basis, but I'll give it a go.

    Let's start with the uniqueness theorum, which states that every living being is a unique individual. Then, apply the Gaia Hypothesis, which states that any dynamic system of sufficient diversity may be regarded as being, in and of itself, alive.

    Thus, the biosphere is a living entity. By degrading and devaluing the life within the biosphere, you endanger the life of the biosphere itself. You have absolutely no means of telling in what states the biosphere is stable (orbiting a strange attractor, in chaos theory terms), and thus no means of predicting if/when a change will cause the system to undergo catastrophic failure.

    Devaluing life, therefore, risks destruction of the biosphere as a whole, and thereby all life within it. That's not simple eco-extremism, that is the 1+1=2-type conclusion you reach by applying simple logic.

    Secondly, let's take the Sun Tzu hypothesis - most things in life are reversable. Life is not. You can always rebuild a wall, but you can never undo death. Each life is also unique. By destroying a life, you can never replace it with another, as there are no other lives the same.

    Here, we see the most clearly logical reason why valuing life is healthier than degrading it. Preservation is the ONLY sure route it success. Destruction, on the other hand, leads to irreversable failure. This was written by the world's leading expert on war. Indeed, no expert since has matched his grasp of the subject. To devalue others, according to this master, was to destroy what you want most. IMHO, that is proof that destructive thinking is a sick mindset. How many sane people chase after what they value most, only to smash it up?

    Finally, there's Decartes theorum that the only thing you can be 100% certain of is your own mind. Even if your thinking is an illusion, it has to be an illusion occuring to -something- which is aware, otherwise you wouldn't be aware of it.

    So, to devalue life is to devalue oneself. (You are the only life you can be sure of, so that means that you have to be a member of the set of entities devalued.)

    In conclusion, the valuing of life is the only path to long-term individual and collective survival. Any other path will lead to self-destruction at best, and collective obliteration at worst.

  • Hitler wanted to kill Jews, saying they were less than human. Singer wants to kill handicapped kids, saying that they are less than human.
    That's just not correct.

    Hitler's idea was that existing Jews (and gays and Pollacks, and...) were less than real persons (those of the "master race") and should be eliminated. Singer's idea is that a newborn is not yet a person, and that perhaps in some circumstances we should not allow it to develop into a person.

    If I have a human sperm and ovum, and I say "If I bring these together, emplant the zygote, and bring it to term, the resulting organism will have a short and painful life," I think we're almost all agreed that I shouldn't do so.

    If I've already made the zygote, then ask if I should implant it, we can ask the same question. And in the absense of some metaphysical belief about zygotes having souls, we again conclude that we shouldn't develop the zygote into a person.

    We can continure the process, asking at various stages, "Should we allow this pre-person to develop into a person?", up until it is a person. When's that? Singer's proposing that the answer may be some point after birth, as the brain begins to form pathways and a mind begins to develop. (Which is an idea I had been independently considering myself. The main problem is objective quantification of the inherently subjective phenomenon of mind - in English, it's easier to make a rule like "at conception", "at six months of fetal development", or "at birth" than "when non-verbal concepts of self and other begin to form resulting in a mind posessesed of a subjectivity.")

    But you are (ahem) reality-challenged if you believe that this is not even being discussed
    As it typical of these matters, there is much screaming at each other, but little discussion.
  • by chromatic ( 9471 ) on Wednesday October 13, 1999 @01:00PM (#1618870) Homepage

    Ahh, now that is a different issue. What does True Free Speech actually mean?

    It does not mean that:
    • People have to listen
    • People who listen will agree
    • People who agree will do something about it
    • Most people will agree
    • Most people have something worth saying
    • People who disagree have to defend themselves for disagreeing
    Besides that, you could argue that the people who have made threats against Dr. Singer (I presume that this is the case, as Jon has alluded to armed guards and an unmarked classroom) have not actually harmed him, but have merely talked about harming him. Fortunately, there are consequences for certain types of speech.

    I just don't agree that saying controversial things "just to make people think" gets people very far. Maybe Jon is surprised that the standard reaction isn't, "Wow, that is so bizarre that I should change my worldview to incorporate it!"

    As I understand Katz' argument, modern technology has created both a need for and the solution of forums in which lots of people can say lots of things. (There's probably a better way to phrase this.) That's nothing new -- we went through the same thing with literacy, the printing press, radio, the telephone, television, and so on.

    I'm wandering, so I'll restate the point: Having free speech doesn't mean that you'll change the world. It may help... but you'll still run into human nature.

    QDMerge [] 0.4 just released!

egrep -n '^[a-z].*\(' $ | sort -t':' +2.0